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The Economist, I must admit, is not among my first choices for news and analysis in regard to gun violence. So, this article caught my eye today. And for good reason.

The NRA's spokesmen have chosen to fixate on the mentally ill as the cause of all our problems with gun violence. In itself it's unusual that they choose any particular group to throw under the bus; after all, the author of the one gun control bill they've endorsed, Senator Lindsey Graham, their A-grade, reliable vote for guns and against gun control, is on record voting for lax regulation on mentally ill veterans, allowing more of them to have guns.

So, why the sudden focus, the vicious attack on the mentally ill? Why demand that we look here and not elsewhere? I'll give you three guesses but you should only need one. Pay no attention to that gun behind the curtain...

Lindsey Graham
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Hypocrite)
Just to dig into Lindsey Graham's legislative history for a moment, it's interesting to consider the contradiction in it now. Have a look at this bill from 2009.
Graham signed Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act

A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify the conditions under which certain persons may be treated as adjudicated mentally incompetent for certain purposes [including 2nd Amendment rights].

Prohibits, in any case arising out of the administration of laws and benefits by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, considering any person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness from being considered adjudicated as a mental defective for purposes of the right to receive or transport firearms without the order or finding of a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others.

Just a few years ago, Graham is on record supporting the preservation of gun rights for such individuals as these, with veterans as the cover -- after all, who wants to do anything bad to veterans? Except that he doesn't seem to care as much now. The text of his new bill shows a change in the standard from 'mental defective' to 'mentally incompetent.' And yet in 2009, he didn't seem to see it as a problem. And Graham can't claim ignorance; mass shootings and the like have occurred since long before 2009, as this Mother Jones timeline shows.

The NRA supports Senator Graham's proposal and claims to want more records related to mental health to get into the NICS database. Although there's still no clear way how the federal government can mandate this. The best that can be done, it seems, is to encourage states by providing funding for better record-keeping.

The Economist also points out some examples of the NRA's notably harsh rhetoric of late. It goes well beyond concern (trolling) into outright demonization. Not to mention how it ties into the NRA's general narrative of our society as some kind of scary, post-apocalyptic dystopia. Here's one quote from Wayne LaPierre.

Wayne LaPierre being rudely interrupted by reality
We have no national database of these lunatics... We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that's got these monsters walking the streets.
I don't think that anyone would put up with this kind of malignant rhetoric here, but I see the same concern simply masked, softened. Presented with as much moral righteousness and high dudgeon as possible. I observed one such derail in one of my diaries earlier in the week, where a discussion of gun violence was shifted to suicide and the mentally ill, under the pretense that gun control advocates don't care enough about it.

Now, I've written about guns and suicide before, and I know that gun enthusiasts are aware of this because they stop by to say hello. So I recognize a derail when I see it. This is of a piece with the NRA's efforts to focus the discussion -- and the legislation -- on the mentally ill, and away from guns and gun manufacturers.

This focus might seem safe enough, but it's not. According to this viewpoint from JAMA back in February, there are risks to the NRA's chosen emphasis:

The first is overidentification; the law could include too many people who are not at significant risk. The second is the chilling effect on help seeking; the law could drive people away from the treatment they need or inhibit their disclosures in therapy. The third is invasion of patient privacy; the law amounts to a breach of the confidential patient-physician relationship. Mental health professionals already have an established duty to take reasonable steps to protect identifiable persons when a patient threatens harm. However, clinicians can discharge that duty in several ways, as the situation demands, often without compromising a therapeutic relationship that depends on confidentiality. For example, the clinician could decide to see the patient more frequently or prescribe a different medication. Voluntary hospitalization is also an option for many at-risk patients.
Just from a public safety standpoint, driving people away from seeking mental health treatment can only exacerbate the problem that the NRA and its Republican allies in Congress claim they want to solve. Beyond that, if we care about these people and want them to get the help they need, we don't want to drive them into the shadows by singling them out as the source of all our woes, or by calling them monsters! The Economist interviewed Professor Jeffrey Swanson, the writer of the quoted JAMA article, to get more details. And while there are dangers to an excessive emphasis on mental health policies to address gun violence, the professor points out one area where it could do much more good.
In one area—suicide by gun—mental illness plays a very strong role, Professor Swanson says, and closer supervision could do real good, despite the risks. In 2010 suicide accounted for 61% of gun-injury deaths in America.
VA’s 80-bed mental health facility opened June 21, 2012, in Palo Alto, Calif., at a time when 2.4 million service members have deployed to war zones since 2001. The rate psychiatric injury among returning veterans is nearly 40 percent according to a 2009
Anyone who has read my earlier diaries on guns and suicide would already know this, of course. And they would also know about the strong opposition to fixing this problem we face from the NRA and gun enthusiasts. Take veterans, for example, the object of Lindsey Graham's now contradictory vote in 2009. When it comes to the problem of guns as a risk factor in suicide, the NRA fought the military and won. Rather than prevent soldiers and veterans at risk of committing suicide from having easy access to guns, rather than gather information relating to this that could save lives, the NRA chose to take the side of gun rights and won. If there is any question of the blood on the hands of the NRA's leadership, that should serve as an answer.

The relationship between easy access to guns, and suicide -- and murder, for that matter -- is clear. That's what the NRA does not want anyone to talk about. And when all else fails, they will distract, and demonize, and lie...

Opponents of gun controls may respond with familiar flurries of statistics. In Hartford, for instance, several pro-gun demonstrators cited the same talking point, claiming (falsely) that home invasion rates soared in Australia after that country banned the most powerful forms of guns in 1996, following a mass shooting. Actually, home break-in and robbery rates have fallen sharply in Australia since 1996, as have gun-death rates, with no corresponding rise in other forms of homicide.
The Economist writer backs this up with statistics from a credible source (as opposed to ex recto), and with a real money quote they wrote just after the mass shooting in Newtown:
America’s murder rate is four times higher than Britain’s and six times higher than Germany’s. Only an idiot, or an anti-American bigot prepared to maintain that Americans are four times more murderous than Britons, could possibly pretend that no connection exists between those figures and the fact that 300m guns are “out there” in the United States, more than one for every adult.
That's the kind of bigotry exhibited by the NRA, however. Against Americans in general as they deny the clear connection between gun proliferation and gun violence; and against the mentally ill, an easy target, an easily dismissed and maligned minority.

Originally posted to The Tytalan Way on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 11:04 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA, Mental Health Awareness, and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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Comment Preferences

  •  Today's soundtrack: In Flames - Dead End (10+ / 0-)

    Happened to have this old disc in the player this morning; I often find inspiration in music. Is inspiration the right word? Not sure, today.

    In times of make believe,
    No one just seems to care,
    Maybe I should care less,
    'Cause I will die too,
    So say goodbye to the world,
    We are the dead that walk the Earth

    Scream your lungs out, await for laughter,
    You don't have to wait forever,
    Here's the next disaster

    We demanded a plan to reduce gun violence. Now it's time to demand a vote.

    by tytalus on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 10:59:20 AM PDT

  •  As you'll also notice, the NRA isn't (9+ / 0-)

    doing a damned thing to support legislation to help the mentally ill or suicidal people get affordable, stigma-free care, either. Proof positive this is just a "Look! A distraction!" ploy on their part.

  •  Republished to Mental Health Awareness nt (5+ / 0-)

    "Mitt Romney looks like the CEO who fires you, then goes to the Country Club and laughs about it with his friends." ~ Thomas Roberts MSNBC

    by second gen on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 11:26:27 AM PDT

    •  How "mentally ill" is defined re guns (Fed. law) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tytalus, second gen, Avila

      One of my concerns is that people may not get help that they need if they fear their guns will be taken away. IMO people close to someone who needs help are often in the best position to

      a) convince that person to see a doctor,


      b) convince that person to at least temporarily get the guns out of the home, i.e. guns and ammo go to stay with friend or relative for safe keeping.

      Toward broad understanding that voluntarily getting help will not result in loss of RKBA, please share how federal law defines a person who is prohibited from firearm possession.

      The vast majority of people suffering from mental illness can seek medical help without worrying that they are waiving their RKBA by doing so.

      Federal Firearms Licensee Quick Reference and Best Practices Guide
      (A few excerpts)

      6.  Adjudicated Mental Defective or Person Involuntarily Committed to a Mental Institution: This prohibited person category includes any person who has EVER been adjudicated by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority to be, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease, a danger to himself or herself or to others or to lack the mental capacity to contract or to manage his/or her own affairs. This category also includes any person who has been subject to a finding of insanity in a criminal case, including a finding that he or she is incompetent to stand trial. Also included is any person who has EVER been formally committed to a mental institution by a court or other lawful authority. This category does NOT include a person committed to a mental institution solely for observation or a person who was voluntarily admitted to a mental institution.

      "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

      by LilithGardener on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 04:03:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If this was all that was required, I'd still be (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener, tytalus, Avila

        able to own guns. But I believe that the state where I live includes anyone who has EVER been treated for a mental illness, either currently or in the past.  I'll tell ya, THAT provision makes me angry. Simply because in order to know this, they'll have to have access to my private medical records. To be adjudicated mentally ill, that is by court order, and that is public record.

        I've also used treatment that, according to the Fed Law makes me still eligible to own firearms, but Michigan, not so much. And I believe the treatment was successful in my case.

        I own a rifle, but I don't have it in my home because I don't have the ability to secure it. My son, who has ADHD and Bipolar Disorder, was far too interested in it when he was 10. I sent it away. He is now 20 and I'm not afraid of him being around it now, but I still don't have a place I feel is secure. He will be moving on soon, and I'll be here alone. Maybe I'd like to get a small hand gun. But Michigan laws, as they currently stand, may preclude that.

        But those who want to take the heat off gun owners in general would prefer to disenfranchise a whole other portion of the population as a sacrificial lamb (the mentally ill). So yes, in answer to your comment, it's entirely likely people will not seek mental health help for fear that they may not be able to own a gun, and that is the worst thing of all.

        I'd like to start a new meme: "No means no" is a misnomer. It should be "Only 'Yes' means yes." Just because someone doesn't say "No" doesn't mean they've given consent. If she didn't say "Yes", there is no consent.

        by second gen on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 05:38:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't know anything about the state laws (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tytalus, second gen, Avila

          that may apply.

          It's so easy to scapegoat the mentally ill, and it breaks my heart whenever I hear about another extra-judicial killing of a homeless or mentally ill person.

          We really need to do better.

          There needs to be an appeal process. Doctors aren't infallible with their diagnoses either.

          "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

          by LilithGardener on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 06:02:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  If the NRA doesn't think a database of gun owners (6+ / 0-)

    is legit, why should I put my medical information in a database?

    "Mitt Romney looks like the CEO who fires you, then goes to the Country Club and laughs about it with his friends." ~ Thomas Roberts MSNBC

    by second gen on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 11:29:11 AM PDT

  •  Re: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KVoimakas, Joy of Fishes, FrankRose

    The NRA was right to take on attaching the stigma of mental illness to veterans and violating their rights by command decision for the same reason the NRA is wrong for calling for a database of the mentally ill.  That LaPierre is incapable of grasping is more proof this organization has long outlived its usefulness for gun advocates.

    Unfortunately, the NRA isn't alone in casting aspersions on the mental health and competence of millions of Americans, or in proposing measures that breed resentment and deter people who need it from seeking treatment.  Neither side of the old Brady Bill debate ever considered requiring prospective gun buyers to present affirmative evidence of mental fitness; they latched onto the idea of a state background check and the centralization of records.  When the NRA finally figured out that they'd opened a door to massive registration in exchange for NICS, they were stuck.   The dissonance in positions they'd take from the start of the Brady period was inevitable.

    When God gives you lemons, you find a new god.

    by Patrick Costighan on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 11:30:01 AM PDT

  •  Not just the NRA, really. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joy of Fishes

    Both sides of the issue seem to be all about keeping guns away from the "mentally ill"

    Which is rather strange, as a prescription and diagnosis isn't a court verdict, and this is a constitutional right we're talking about abrogating...

    •  All about it? (5+ / 0-)

      The NRA has endorsed one bill, and it's all about that. That's their choice, their record as it stands now. They can't even support the bill establishing straw purchasing as a federal crime, and they're normally so (faux) law-and-order.

      The bills that Democrats have passed out of the Judiciary committee in the Senate are a different story. And Obama's proposals don't seem to be all about getting guns out of the hands of dangerously mentally ill people. It's going to take some evidence to support that 'both sides do it' argument.

      It's true that both sides seem to have some agreement about this being a problem in need of solving, though, and gun control advocacy groups have been behind better record keeping long before the NRA decided to run with it. Getting shot, and the constitutional rights that abrogates, are a higher priority for me.

      We demanded a plan to reduce gun violence. Now it's time to demand a vote.

      by tytalus on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 01:42:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  LaPierre was thinking (4+ / 0-)

    what to have said this extremely insensitive, harsh and . . . well, stigmatizing kind of nonsense?

    We have no national database of these lunatics... We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that's got these monsters walking the streets.
    he is definitely not part of the solution.

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