April 23, 2007


Of course there's the Aerosmith tune (vid here & live vid here) which is about the peculiar manifestation of insanity that most call love (I especially dig the part at the end where it breaks down & the guitar is doubling the vocals - the "I need your love" part - it just seemed like a very nice touch). Guns'n'Roses had a tune called "You're Crazy" (live & unusually funky vid here & live acoustic vid here) that's a cute little NSFW tune supposing someone is crazy for rejecting him. Willie Nelson wrote a tune that Patsy Cline made her signature song called "Crazy" (vid here) about a person feeling foolish to the point of questioning their sanity for falling for someone & thinking they felt the same. Prince had "Let's Go Crazy" (vid set to CGI clip here, & a really interesting arrangement of the song by a string quarter here & here's an all choral version from those crazy kids at Duke - no really - click those last two for yourself even if you don't normally click vid links- You'll laugh; you'll cry; you'll mutter out loud "oh no they didn't"...) about breaking the daily routine for the sake of ones' own mental health (or it could just be about sex - you know Prince...). Seal has a tune called "Crazy" (live vid here) that I always really enjoyed playing. It seems to be about disrupting monotony & getting past mediocrity in a way that most folks would casually call crazy (& conversely wondering if those that are satisfied with mediocrity aren't the truly crazy ones). Being a product of my times I feel obligated to include Ozzy's "Crazy Train" (live vid from 1981 w/ Randy Rhodes & poor sound quality here). But the most recent (that I know of) is a tune by Gnarls Barkley called "Crazy" (vid here - complete with Rorschach imagery & another vid is here). I think it's about escapism of some sort when in harsh circumstances, but it's not very clear as to just what the hell it's about. Still, it's a catchy little tune.

There are many uses of the word "crazy" (not that I know any of them because they've been hurled at me in some form or another); some casual & even complimentary (i.e. "he so crazy") & others with a more negative connotation (i.e. "I thought you were crazy for even asking that of me"). But the "crazy" I will speak of (which is having some effect on talks about gun control of late) - well let me paraphrase Chris Titus:

"When I say my mom is crazy I don't mean like 'your mom is craaaazy', I mean 'we the jury find the defendant..."

Charles Krauthammer (who is no friend of gun owners generally) makes this observation:

"In a previous age, such a troubled soul might have found himself at the state mental hospital rather than a state university. But in a trade-off that a decent and tolerant society makes with open eyes, we allow freedom from straitjackets to those on the psychic edge, knowing that such tolerance runs a very rare but very terrible risk."

Geraldo Rivera made a name for himself with the reporting he did on the conditions at Willowbrook State School. If I recall that started a big movement to clean up the practices in the nation's mental health care systems, with one of the results making it harder to involuntarily institutionalize people.

Say Uncle asks if mental health records should be more diligently reported to the NICS system. Of note is one of his commenters who had this to say:

"No. In Caifornia, if you are 'evaluated' at a mental health facility, against your will, say by court order, your gun rights are gone for two years. Other states the term is longer or shorter, of course.
La La police have a policy of sending arrested gun owners to a psych exam, thereby de-gunning them for two years."

Another comment from the same post of Uncle's:

"In the state of Tennessee, if you are checked into any in-patient mental health facility, you lose your right to own a gun. It doesnít matter if you go in on your own or are committed. It doesnít matter if itís for rehad, eating disorders, or threatening to kill someone.
The one thing Iím not sure about is the length of time before you get your rights back. Itís either 7 years or never."

Clayton Cramer has been speaking about the issue of mental illness & how we treat those so afflicted for some time. Of late here are some posts of his related to the Virginia Tech Massacre

The Importance of Early Identification of Mental Illness Problems

Swinging Pendulum

Tragedies That Won't Stop

What, Realistically, Can Be Done?

In that last one one Clayton argues that some restrictions based on involuntary commitment might do some good, but he does note:

"The problem is that involuntary commitment in some states, especially for observation, does not have enough protections against abuse of the process. In California, Welfare & Institutions Code 5150 allows:

'a peace officer, member of the attending staff, as defined by regulation, of an evaluation facility designated by the county, designated members of a mobile crisis team provided by Section 5651.7, or other professional person designated by the county may, upon probable cause, take, or cause to be taken, the person into custody and place him or her in a facility designated by the county and approved by the State Department of Mental Health as a facility for 72-hour treatment and evaluation.'

Once you have been 5150ed, you lose your right to possess firearms for five years. See Welfare & Institutions Code 8103(f)."

But he concludes thusly:

"We have a choice on this: try to fix a significant hole in the system, even if it isn't perfect, or find ourselves confronting the same problem a few years down the road. I would rather not wait for another mentally ill person to buy a gun from a dealer, and murder 32 people."

Dr Helen (a forensic psychologist) has been busy on the issue as well. In Uncle's post he pointed to this post by Dr. Helen entitled Does the US Need Better Reporting Laws for the Mentally Ill?

"One person in the article mentions that the problem is with the medical community that has traditionally opposed making such records available on privacy grounds. Confidentiality in mental health is very important, but then, so is making sure that the mentally ill do not obtain guns illegally. Can we really rely on someone like Cho marking 'yes' to form 4473 asking 'Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective or Ö committed to a mental institution?' I think not."

She has more on the subject:

Cho ruled mentally ill and released

"There is very little liability in this country when it comes to releasing the mentally ill back into the community or not taking dangerousness seriously. I once was doing an evaluation of a man who told me he was going to kill himself years ago. I called the local mental health center and they told me to 'drive the guy over in my car.' The level of stupidity and incompetence in the area of mental health is staggering."

She also did an interview with a local news station. Here's her post on that with directions for viewing it if you're so inclined.

"How on earth was this time bomb allowed to go on ticking for so long?"

"In my opinion, if we have mentally unstable students who have made threats, have behavioral problems, etc. in universities and schools who do not hold themselves or the student accountable for their behavior, there is no other alternative than to extend the civil right to concealed carry to the potential innocent staff and students who may encounter the wrath of such a person. If universities and schools won't take responsibility -- and they won't -- then someone has to." (emphasis in original)

Both Dr. Helen & Clayton Cramer are far from being members of the Brady campaign & are in favor of at least arming teachers & those with CCW permits, but they seem to be in favor of more vigorous reporting of mental illness to the FBI for NICS checks.

A lot of gun owners seem okay with more stringent reporting requirements for mental health related issues. In fact, those bastions of compromise gun industry rights at the NRA are being alleged to having chats with the Democrats in congress to stiffen the laws concerning the reporting of mental illness to the FBI for NICS checks. The Liberty Zone as well as The War On Guns have more on this.

So would it be a good idea to have the states report mental health diagnosis to the FBI to prevent mentally disturbed folks from legally buying a firearm?


The problems with stricter reporting of mental health related treatment or evaluations for NICS checks are many. Skipping the obvious "NICS checks are arguably a constitutional infringement & we should eliminate the system completely" line of reasoning (which I'd be more than happy to take up with any who wish to discuss that aspect of gun control) as well as the general privacy concerns over medical information I can see several areas of concern.

The first & most obvious is the potential for abuse. Clayton Cramer & a commentor at Say Uncles both pointed to California's laws concerning mental health evaluations & the way it can be (& reportedly has been) abused. If you live in Cali or some other place with harsh gun laws coupled with a general anti-gun attitude by the local .gov would you really wish to risk being abused with the system?

We're gun owners for cryin' out loud. A lot (though by no means all & hopefully not a majority) of anti-gunners &/or hoplophobes already think we have a screw loose. We not only enjoy owning firearms & using them, but we think it's a Right.

"...Can you imagine that? Thinking keeping a killing machine under your bed in case there's a revolution is a right...that's, that's... crazy..."

That's how some folks view us already. Some of those folks are cops & judges & shrinks & docs in ER's & others who are in a position to commit anyone they come across for a 72 hour "evaluation' (of course this varies by state). Imagine going to the doc to have your broken arm treated, Casually mention something about a duck hunt you have planned & then as they're carting you away you realize the doc was the head of the local PETA chapter & is rumored to have ties to ALF. But no biggie - a few hours later you are released because the attending shrink can see that you're sane. 4 months later you find a Ruger Mark III on sale & then find out you're a "prohibited person" because of your run in with the anti-gun/anti-hunting doc.

Unlikely? Yes; but not implausible.

There's just too much potential for abuse from anti-gunners in the mental health care system & its related chains. But that's not the only danger to gun owners with no malice intent.

I have mentioned once or twice before that I'm not enamored with psychology or psychiatry as sciences. In fact calling either a science is being generous in my view. The human mind is simply too complex & humans are too individualistic in nature to have more than a general understanding of what's going on with a person mentally. It's not that shrinks are never correct or never helpful, but there is by no means as much reliability in diagnosis as I'd prefer to see in anything that is respected as scientific. Hell, I don't think medical doctors are all they're cracked up to be so any professions with less of a reputation is not going to garner my trust. (for more an anti-psychiatry Wikipedia has a nice page on the issue & they have a section of their page on psychology about criticisms in that field).

To put a point on it most shrinks don't know what the hell they're talking about. The ones that do I think are successful as much because of a very developed empathic ability as they are because of the marvels of modern psychiatry. The good ones are just naturally (or through experience) good at reading people. But even the good ones are not 100% correct in their diagnosis. Sure they can help some folks & may be close enough to right a good portion of the time, but on the whole psychiatrists are not reliable enough in their field to be considered authoritative. That's because their field is A: in its (relative) infancy & B: it simply won't ever be able to adequately explain the human mind.

Not that shrinks should stop their endeavors - as I keep saying they can do some good. But that they believe their doctrines to be empirical & that we (as a whole) look to them as experts in their field is a mistake.

Look, I love my mechanic. He's a great guy with a good working knowledge of things mechanical in general & things automotive in particular. He's usually been able to diagnose any car problems I've had & fix them in short order. Now I'm sure if I gave him a disassembled Garand he'd figure out hot to put it together in an hour or two. That does not mean I'm going to call him up & ask him, sight unseen, what the correct gas port diameter would be for a .338 ASquare barrel in my Garand would be. As much faith as I have in him he simply does not have the knowledge to provide the answer I would need.

In the same way a shrink viewed as an empirical authority on a person's mental state would be like me calling my favorite mechanic as I'm looking at my drills asking him about the proper gas port diameter for a weapon he's never even fired.

using the same example my mechanic would tell me to drill a gole size that would probably be too small. This is because he knows that if I get the hole too small I can always drill a bigger hole, while drilling too big leaves no options except buying a new barrel. similarly a shrink would possibly feel pressure to err ont he side of caution, & in this case the side of caution would be opposite of the side of the Right to arms. No shrink wants to get multiple calls from different journalists asking why they didn't mark Joe Blow down as too unstable for arms possession before he went & shot 7 people at the local victim disarmament zone of choice with a gun he bought 2 weeks after their last (& perhaps only) session with him. So I can see the use of "cautionary" inclusions into the "do not sell guns to" list becoming standard practice in some areas.

So I'd object to mental health records being a part of the NICS check simply because I have no faith in the people making such determinations.

Course in some circles that'd have me labeled as paranoid or , dare I type it? - crazy...

In any case what we're doing is to ask a government body to exercise judgment over medical matters to determine if someone should have the practical means of exercising a Right. Pragmatically I have the same argument against expanded (or any) use of mental health records in the NICS system as I do against Hillary Care (or other socialized or quasi-socialized medical schemes). It's very simple; I do not want the same fine folks who put together the team at the local DMV to have any part in individual decisions concerning life & death matters, especially with my life.

Have you ever planned a day outdoors & been misled by a weather report? Do you generally view your local weather guy as reliable? Even if the answer to the 2nd questions was "yes" the answer to the 1rst question absolutely has to be "yes" as well (assuming you pay attention to the weather folks at all). & meteorology is an exact science. Now tell me, would your faith increase at all if instead of the mix of government employed meteorologists & privately employed ones that we have now, if the .gov was in charge of the whole kit'n'kabootle?

I have to assume that the last question would be answered in the negative. If I'm correct & your faith in the forecast would not increase if it was a government controlled matter then I have to assume that doubly you would not get the warm & fuzzies knowing that every doc & shrink was a .gov doc & shrink.

So why is it that you could view a mental health evaluation (possibly by a .gov shrink) in the hands of the .gov as a justifiable reason to deny someone their Right to arms?

Another argument against is also a pragmatic one. If a person is not capable of being trusted with a firearm in an open society then what the hell is that person doing in an open society? If the shrinks luck out & get one right, & it's determined that Joe Blow is a legitimate danger to his damn self as well as others, does it really makes sense to give him the chance to walk into a hardware store, or the cleaning chemical section of a grocery store, or buy kitchen cutlery or yard tools or matches, or get behind a 1+ ton self propelled missile made in Japan, Germany or Detroit? There are many ways to cause mass harm to folks & firearms are not at the top of the list.

So we kid ourselves if we say that we deny a person firearms & everything will be hunky dory. If they really are a danger to other people then they should be removed from society. Denying folks firearms but leaving liquor, matches & car keys on the counter seems counter-productive to the desired goal.

Of course there's the political angle. We all know about the slippery slope. Currently all the gun grabbers (& it seems the NRA) seeks is to include mental health commitments of an involuntary nature in the NICS system. From their it wouldn't take much to move towards a system like Tennessee's (assuming the commenter at Say Uncle's is correct about Tennessee law) where rehab for an eating disorder gets you on "prohibited person" status. The worst case scenario is that this could be the first step to require a psychiatric screening in order to buy a firearm (as I believe is the case in some countries currently).

Politically it's just a bas idea for our side. The folks who say we're going to have gun laws no matter what & should try to make appeasing gestures that don't really have any effects are kidding themselves. No amount of compromise will work in our favor. writing off increased reporting of medical records as a political expense is bound to be as fruitful as sending the $500 to the nice old lady in Nigeria who sent word to you of your recently deceased cousin & his $7.6 million bank account which she administers.

Yes; we're always going to have gun control. That's in no small part to folks who shrug & say "we're always going to have gun control". Going on the political offensive is what we need to do to decrease the gun control laws as much as possible & compromising on medical records is not the kind of offensive action I mean. It will net us nothing but another few inches in the wrong direction on the hill we're trying to crest.

Those are the most prominent reasons I can think of at the moment to oppose any expansion of medical records in the NICS system. & yes; i realize that people like the murdering punk at Virginia Tech could have been prevented from acquiring a firearm if the reporting process were more stringent. May I remind you of your Archie Bunker?

When Archie's daughter Gloria lamented about the number of people killed every year with firearms Archie looked up at her & replied, "Would you fell better if they was pushed out of windows?"

A murderer has many tools at his disposal. While firearms are among the most efficient they are not at the top of the list. I'd have to rank fire & explosion as the most effective at mass murder, with poisoning coming in right behind them. So unless the solution is to completely remove individuals from society when we think they're unjustifiably dangerous then we're not going to be accomplishing anything by making it more difficult to acquire firearms - except lose ground politically & ideologically while causing harm to some folks who aren't on the verge of a killing spree by denying them the most effective means to exercise a fundamental Right.

Posted by Publicola at April 23, 2007 08:42 AM | TrackBack

Even if there were calls to lock the "crazy" up, I don't think I'd support such ideas. The Soviet Union labeled dissidents "crazy" and locked them up, after all.

Posted by: Josh at April 23, 2007 03:55 PM

Actually we did that too - just not on a very large scale & it was centered around concerns for national security in a time of war (WW2) rather than just political disagreement - or so it's been said by those who did it.

But I wouldn't be thrilled at an increase in involuntary commitments either. I'm just saying that being in society should be an all or nothing proposition - either you can be trusted with all the rights everyone else has or you can be trusted with none of them. How to determine exactly who can be trusted is the tough part, & one of the reasons I'm against gun control in general.

Posted by: Publicola at April 24, 2007 12:04 AM