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Gun violence is “more of a mental health problem than a gun problem right now,” Representative Howard Coble, R-N.C., recently told The New York Times.But trying to keep guns away from the mentally ill is hugely problematic, Jacob Sullum writes for Reason.
The NRA has suggested the United States keep an “active national database of the mentally ill,” but such a database would be tough to maintain and might not even be effective, according to Sullum.
For one thing, one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental illness in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Since mental health professionals can’t always predict when the world’s “misfits, cranks, and oddballs will become violent,” it would be tough to determine who belonged in that database, Sullum pointed out.
Moreover, people like Newtown, Conn. gunman Adam Lanza could still get guns legally obtained by sane relatives.
So, how are we supposed to stop insane people from killing people?
California took a stab at trying to stop mentally ill people from becoming violent in 2002 when it passed Laura’s Law, which was named for a young woman who was killed by a mentally ill man.
The law, which can force the mentally ill to get treatment, has been attacked by mental health advocates, who say involuntary treatment can be ineffective, PBS reported Wednesday. The state has also refused to fund the law, making it largely symbolic.
Still, psychiatrist Paul Steinberg argued in The New York Times that we should show a greater willingness to commit people who pose an obvious threat to others.
The U.S. also needs more controls on semiautomatic weapons and intense public education on how to deal with people who have schizophrenia, which Steinberg said Adam Lanza likely suffered from.
In short, Steinberg wrote, “It takes a village to stop a rampage.”