Allowing Mentally Ill to Have Guns is Crazy
PIERRE – The South Dakota House of Representatives has decided to continue with the state policy of defying federal gun law. A bill to begin submitting a list of people deemed “dangerously” mentally ill to the federal background check system failed to leave committee.
Have you ever noticed how every time new gun legislation is discussed the NRA comes out and says that there are enough laws, and that what really needs to be done is to enforce laws that are already on the books? If that is the case, why aren’t they pushing our legislators to step up fulfill federal obligations?
South Dakota lawmakers are not alone in being so frightened of the NRA as to be bereft of commonsense; only about 30 states fulfill their obligations to submit such lists. In our case though, legislators set up an even lower hurdle for themselves to refuse to jump over.
On the lists submitted by other states are people who are deemed dangerous to both themselves and to others. The now scuttled South Dakota bill would have only listed people determined to be a threat to others.
Amongst the arguments cited by lawmakers as reasons not comply with the federal standards are avoiding further “stigmatization” of the mentally ill, and the fact that people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.
As valid as those concerns may be, do they really outweigh the risks of allowing the seriously mentally ill and potentially violent to purchase guns no questions asked? Every week almost on cue, there is a new report of a mass shooting. While in many cases, people who knew the shooters are quoted as saying that he (and it is almost always a he) displayed no warning signs, there are also plenty of cases where red flags were ignored.
Obviously, there is no way that we can compile a completely accurate list of people who are dangerously mentally ill, as many people will not seek treatment, not share their thoughts with anyone and thereby effectively hide in plain sight. It is also quite possible that some people put on the list would never harm anyone. Is any of that really a good enough reason not to make a list at all? If it only prevents one killing, isn’t an imperfect list better than nothing?
As recent shootings by athletes demonstrate, seemingly normal people can snap under particular circumstances. When this happens and a gun is handy, people are much more likely to kill others and/or themselves. Why not take at least small steps to make guns less available to people who are simply more likely to snap in the first place?
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Gossom and do not reflect Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its sponsors or subsidiaries.