Mental Illness and Firearms

This is a spin-off from OPINION QUESTION: Do you think background checks work? conversation that included some discussion of mental illness during background checks.

There are varying degrees of mental illness just like there are varying degrees of physical illnesses - from depression to schizophrenia, anxiety to dementia. There is not a one-size-fits-all assessment or treatment for any mental or physical malady.

From the USCCA blog article: Answering the Anti-Gun Group:

What challenges do you see with mental illness and firearms possession? Should mental health professionals have a say in your background checks?

These questions are designed to get the conversation going, they are not a viewpoint or statement of my views or the views of the USCCA.


The old days, they could throw anyone into an asylum for any reason, and they were horrible. Walked a couple museum exhibitions of them. The ACLU jumped in and said you cant just take away people’s rights.
Now a days, I have privacy with a dr. That’s a good thing. Letting the government have access to my medical files scares me. This is that with great power comes great responsibility thing, and I dont trust the government with that. I dont see a good solution to this that doesnt violate our god given rights.
Mental health issues, we talking both mood disorders and personality disorders? If there was a simple blood test to tell what you have, than no problem. Three different drs can diagnose different things. The amount of time needed with a patient to determine would be substantial. Then, are they stable on medication?
Who oversees that? massive can of worms. I think the gun owner should be held responsible for the actions of their kid if the kid pulls a sandy hook. The family is the first line of defense, and we know how that’s going in America now a days. I could rent for a while. Scary stuff


The ACLU had it right in the past but are now solidly behind using “Red Flag Laws” to strip us of our rights without due process.

Medically the challenge is largely the APA and AMA. They put great pressure on practitioners not to report unless it is absolutely necessary due to an immediate threat. This violates their own ethical codes as well as the laws requiring them to report anyone who they believe to be a “danger to themselves and others”.

Additionally the RFL’s create a condition where those who are not at all dangerous but needing help will fear being reported under same if they seek it.

We need clear federal legislation relieving physicians of liabilty, criminally, ethically, and civilly for reporting true cases of people who are actually identifiable as “clear dangers” but still also absolutely establishing the illegality and unconstitutionality of denying due process by arresting, searching, and seizing before a court has actually ruled based on 72hr holds or longer, that the person is actually a danger.

This is a topic I’ve struggled over for years but with the rise of the RLF’s I’ve dug into it deeply with gun rights activists from both the medical and legal fields and readings of true constitutional experts such as Dershowitz, Seculow, and Levin.

I may not be on the right track but if I’m not neither are some of the best minds in the country.


Going down the worm hole. Who says to what degree of mental illness are you no longer allowed your rights. I don’t believe you can take just one right away. AND if you’re not “stable” then should you be allowed to drive or hold certain jobs?

Who sets the standards?

If you’re doing this under the umbrella of public safety then how far do you go to protect the public.

My opinion is mental illness is used to describe the vile people who commit these horrific acts of violence and terrorism because people need something to blame. They can’t imagine someone just snapped or in the terrorism world they have an agenda to scare and intimidate people. And thru it all how many times have people come forward AFTER the fact and say that they were concerned the individual would do “something” and yet nothing was done to prevent it. Maybe they reported it but at some level somewhere someone didn’t act. I believe this is a loophole to take away rights and will do absolutely nothing but empower an already overreaching government and ruin good law abiding citizens lives.

@brian. I’m gonna have to respectively disagree. When a person decides to commit crime at that level they should no longer be looked at as a child. crimes like that are thought out well in advance maybe there were warning signs maybe not. But with the wording the gun owner should be held responsible then if they stole my gun or your gun then we could be held responsible. There are extreme circumstances where the upbringing can be blamed (abuse, drugs, etc…) That should certainly be looked at.


Exactly, it’s definitely not a one size fits all plan. Also a lot of fine print and mostly a reactive “solution” Not much proactive. I’m not looking to neuter your defense options in home, but have a high degree of accountability over your firearms. The specific case I brought up about Sandy Hook, If I have my facts right, a guy with mental health issues, clearly known to his mom, had access to her evil black rifle. I am lacking on more in depth details on that, but I go to great lengths to prevent theft of my firearms. If I had someone who I know wasn’t in a good place mentally, who had access to my house… I vowed to myself long ago that if the day ever comes when my gun is used against a human, it’s going to be me* behind the trigger and it’s going to be for a very good reason.

  • or spouse. Another can of worms, I know…

One thing I think we will all agree on, there is no easy or cookie cutter answer when it comes to mental illness and firearms.

The discussion here may not find an answer, but can help advance understanding and help people see a variety of different points that must be considered for this very difficult topic.


I agree with taking every precaution to prevent my guns from being used by a criminal. I believe that it’s a small percentage of gun owners who don’t take that seriously.

I also feel like a lot of energy is used on everything except the criminals. I understand people want to know why these things are happening but when we start trying to prevent things before they happen we lose freedom and gain nothing. Other countries have much less access to guns yet still have horrific mass casualty crimes.

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I couldn’t agree more. It sucks. Since I don’t have anything good to contribute to this, and since I think in parables, I’m going to take another angle at this. …

If you could push a button and cure cancer, but it cost the life of 1 random person, would you? You bet, that’s my answer. How about 5 people? 10? maybe 100? 1,000? At some point, you need to make a tough decision. Everyone has their own answer to how many random people they would sacrifice to advance the greater good.

Now, use this as a metaphor. Let’s say… how many mass shootings a year are acceptable in a year before we make policies that inhibit responsible gun owners? The greater good and all.
I know how anti that is, but… shootings are very emotional, especially mass shootings. Logic and reason make good decisions, emotions make poor decisions. Feel good laws aren’t going to help us. What will help us? Everything goes back to your comment.

When does someone become a criminal? Are they born a criminal? How do we proactively stop criminals? What’s up with that ass hat Vegas shooter? Was he a criminal the day before? How could we have stopped him. I think this tangent does apply to the thread, even though I didn’t say mental health once.
These are the tough questions that need to be answered, and it’s not a simple law that will fix it. Can a mentally healthy person snap to the point of going on a rampage? If that’s the case, only “professionals” should have guns, right? There are still states that it’s illegal to pump your own gas, because it’s too dangerous.
I don’t see a win win for this highly subjective and emotional subject.

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You make a lot of great points. The elephant in the room is our morals as a nation and a society. It’s become acceptable to be a mooch and peoples hard lives are other peoples problems. Instead of raising a generation to overcome hardships or obstacles we point and say it’s that person’s or policies fault. Blame everything else except yourself for making bad decisions. Bring back self accountability and self worth.

I know that’s going to be a very unpopular squirrel trail but at some point we have failed to teach young people how to handle dissatisfaction and control their emotions.


I think you make great points. Knowing the value of self and others is HUGE. I also think that we have failed to teach people that it’s OK to disagree, but it’s not necessary to hate someone you disagree with. Respect has been lost in so many areas…

You’ll see that respect for others, even when you disagree with them, is a very important thing for me. Without respectful listening and interactions, we’ll never gain understanding or move forward with our conversations.


Like most things that can leave you disqualified it’s going to be up to a judge. We already have a system in place to handle involuntary committments and based on the reports of multiple MHP’s be they Psychiatrists or Psychologists the judge is the final arbiter.

Criteria? Can the individual exercise sound judgement? Can they distinguish between right and wrong? Do they have voices in their head telling them to harm themselves or others? Do they have the mental capacity to understand the consequences of their actions?

Other apply.

The big problem is how do we get individuals that are identified as dangerous into the system, evaluated and adjudicated to begin with.

We’ve seen in numerous mass shootings where in the aftermath when people were interviewd that the perp had a long history of drug use, irrational, dangerous, threatening behavior, long histories of conflict/contact with LEO’s, school officials and yet no one ever acted to get them into the system and evaluated much less a court determination of ineligibility.

We need to be careful enough not to sweep up people that may have some minor issues and strip them of their rights unduly, or worse, create enough of a real fear that anyone needing some help will be immediately reported and have their rights stripped unjustly.

That sort of an atmosphere would lead to more people with potentially serious issues in the future avoiding getting any help for fear of being “labeled” who will then continue to slide into madness and finally one day cut loose.

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After reading about how your caliber can potentially be used against you in court… if I was on a hold for a psychiatric evaluation 12 years ago, and nothing else. Would that stigma stay with me? Used against me in a court of law ( or public opinion which can be way worse)? Finding the careful way to identify people would be the hard part.

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@Brian1 unless the record of a 3day hold is expunged, yep, it would be used. Maybe even if it was expunged.

We’ve entered a time where the veracity of an event is largely trumped by the severity of the charges. Accusation or allegation of an issue can be enough, and once documented, rarely ever goes away.

It’s one of the things that I find deeply frightening about red flag laws. Accusation of instability, regardless of veracity, is all it takes to deprive you of your rights and drag your life through a knot hole backwards. Once that’s done, it’s on you to prove you’re sane and no threat… how is that even possible, given that people sometimes are, and then later, aren’t? Plus the stigma will stay forever.

I’ve seen people’s minds fall apart, their brain go off the rails or their emotions take them over the edge, up close and personal. Its frightening, horrible, and tragic for everyone around them. I’ve seen some go there for a temporary reason and recover just fine, and others not recover at all.

There are people who should not have access to weapons, no question… it’s not them I worry for. If the law could be tuned to address them, I’d be far less likely to object. It’s the people who have a problem, get help, and recover that these laws must protect. Its the people who are mistaken accused or who are falsely accused by someone seeking to harm them that these laws must protect.

Any red flag law that does not provide redress for those that seek help and recover or are mistakenly accused, and that does not contain stiff consequences for malicious accusations, will harm far more people than it protects


The problem with this to me is that many people in politics think gun owners HAVE a mental issue… How many times have you seen a few guns called a “weapons cache”? Or heard why would anyone “need” one of those guns?

If someone can’t handle owning a gun, should they be allowed to drive a car? Be free in society?


Yeah, that’s a valid point.

That too.
I remember one news flash before I stopped watching the news where they arrested a fellow then searched his house. The “arsenal” they announced, with great drama and scandalized shock, was 2 hunting rifles, a shotgun suitable for trap, and 3 handguns, one of them an antique. Plus “over 400 rounds of ammo”.
I don’t remember what he was arrested for, but I do remember thinking… Geez, does the guy even practice?


Here’s an older blog post by Beth that goes well in line with this discussion.

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So if studies find that psychologists can’t predict or diagnose disorders with reliable accuracy then do we just hope we’re not one of the ones miss diagnosed. I know this was done in the 70’s but I am trusting government less and less everyday.


I’d forgotten about that study @Sheepdog556… now that you remind me, I recall how scary that information is. Personally, I’ve seen folks who had legit issues end up with 7 or 8 different diagnoses, and several dozen different medications before they got onto what was actually happening and how to address it. Much as I have respect for many of the folks doing the hard work of psychiatry and psychology, many of them are not doing a great job. I’m afraid it’s not something that can ever get down to any sort of exact science, and the degree to which misdiagnosis and mistreatment goes on is deeply frightening when you consider that even well trained folks get it wrong a lot. How does a judge or a jury have a chance of getting it right?
Having someone declare you crazy or unfit, when what you are is simply not-PC or mainstream, is a very scary proposition. Add to that malicious accusations as yet another option for things to go horribly wrong and it’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

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I have played many violent video games and have watch violent cartoons like Tom and Jerry, Road Runner, and violent movies and more. I’m 65 years old. And I’m not a violent person. I know it’s a game or cartoon’s are a movie and put that under Mental Illness. It’s a good why to get a sick conversation going. And in Indiana your back ground check includes all of that. And your regulation of violent video games, dose that include movies. And what about sex in movies. I will tell you this, no video games, no violent movies and no movies with sex in it. You will have to turn off your TV and turn off my Game Cube. So I can’t watch TV I can’t play my Zelda games so the only thing left to do is go to the Range shoot the hell out of some Paper, I can’t do that, to much violent. Life is getting hard, just can have any FUN. LOL!!!

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