After Aaron Alexis killed 13 people in Washington D.C., questions began to fly about his possible mental illness. Defense Secretary Hagel said that “red flags” were missed which resulted in Alexis having security clearance to get into the navy yard. Alexis had complained that he was being followed by three individuals who were using “some sort of microwave machine” to send vibrations through his hotel room ceiling, causing him insomnia. Earlier this year he sought treatment from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for paranoia and other concerns.
Some have asked not only how this man had security clearance, but how someone who was suspected to be mentally ill was able to pass a background check. In order to be prohibited from buying a gun, a person must be determined by a court to be “mentally unfit” or the person must be involuntarily committed to an institution. The purpose of this is to avoid discouraging people from seeking help. About 44.7 million adults, one fifth of the adult population, experienced mental illness in the previous year according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. If all these people were barred from receiving firearms, it would severely discourage someone from seeking mental health treatment to avoid the label of mentally ill. Even now, out of about 10.4 million who suffer from serious mental illness, 4 million did not receive treatment at all.
Often, due to emotional and highly publicized events such as this one, the threat of such mass shootings is often overblown. The truth is, the frequency and damage of these events has substantially declined in the past two decades. In reality, mass shootings in the U.S. peaked in 1929. Currently, the chance of being killed in a mass shooting is about the same as being struck by lightning. This raises the question of whether this is a problem that can be legislated away at all.
Legislating in the “heat of the moment” rarely has a good result. The New York gun law passed in the wake of the Newtown shooting has raised serious concerns about the treatment of potentially dangerous people. The law would require therapists, doctors, nurses, and social workers to tell government authorities if they believe a patient is likely to harm himself or others. This could lead to the patient’s gun permit being revoked and even the seizing of any guns owned by the patient. Without strict doctor patient confidentiality, the trust necessary to create a therapeutic mental health environment is difficult to create.
The Wall Street Journal, Military Missed ‘Red Flags’ on Shooter, Hagel Says: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324492604579083230232779914.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_6
The New York Times, Starbucks Seeks to Keep Guns Out of Its Coffee Shops: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/19/business/starbucks-seeks-to-keep-guns-out-of-its-cofee-shops.html
Starbucks, An Open Letter from Howard Schultz, C.E.O. of Starbucks Coffee Company: http://www.starbucks.com/blog/an-open-letter-from-howard-schultz/1268
The Wall Street Journal, Tired Guns: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323308504579083172531448290.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_MIDDLETopOpinion
The Huffington Post, Recent Shootings Show Threat of ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorists: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/13/recent-shootings-show-thr_n_215211.html
Washingtons Blog, You’re more likely to die from Brain-Eating Parasites, Alcoholism, Obesity, Medical Errors, Risky Sexual Behavior or Just About Anything Other Than Terrorism: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/04/statistics-you-are-not-going-to-be-killed-by-terrorists.html
USA Today, Experts Fear Proposed N.Y. Gun Law Might Hinder Therapy: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/15/ny-gun-law-therapy/1836323/
WND, Colorado to Pay Piper after Dems’ War on Guns: http://www.wnd.com/2013/04/colorado-to-pay-piper-after-dems-war-on-guns/
Legal Match, Gun-Free Business Policies and Opt-Out Statutes: http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/gun-free-business-policies-and-opt-out-statutes.html
National Review Online, The Facts about Mass Shootings: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/335739/facts-about-mass-shootings-john-fund