Time for a great national conversation about mental illness
Emily Miller of the Washington Times busted the New York Times for straight-up fabricating a gun control angle to the Washington Navy Yard shooting, in a transparent effort to keep gun laws in the story somehow:
The Times has a story Tuesday on its homepage with the headline “State Law Stopped Gunman From Buying Rifle, Officials Say.”
The first line says: “The gunman who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday test fired an AR-15 assault rifle at a Virginia gun store last week but was stopped from buying one because state law there prohibits the sale of such weapons to out-of-state buyers, according to two senior law enforcement officials.”
Apparently neither the reporter nor his editors took the time to fact check their vague “law enforcement officials” sources.
“Virginia law does not prohibit the sale of assault rifles to out-of-state citizens who have proper identification,” Dan Peterson, a Virginia firearms attorney, told me Tuesday night. The required identification is proof of residency in another state and of U.S. citizenship, which can be items like a passport, birth certificate or voter identification card.
The Commonwealth defines “assault firearm” as any semiautomatic centerfire rifle or pistol with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds or can accommodate a silencer or is equipped with a folding stock.
John Frazer, also a firearms attorney in the Commonwealth, told me that, “State law in Virginia — like most states — allows purchase of rifles or shotguns by residents of other states. Virginia simply requires some additional forms of identification.”
Federal law is clear on this residency issue. A quick glance at the ATF website would have informed the New York Times journalists that a person may buy a rifle or shotgun, in person, at a federal firearms licensee’s premises in any state, provided the sale complies with state laws, which it would in this case.
So once again, the gun-control nuts don’t even understand the existing federal and state laws they want to expand. Miller goes on to note that the Times’ ignorance of the law is actually something of a sideshow, because (based on the most current available information) the killer, Aaron Alexis, didn’t actually try to purchase an AR-15 at all. He evidently rented one and did some range shooting, but the only weapon he tried to purchase was the Joe Biden-approved shotgun he used to commit his crimes. The entire New York Times story is a complete fabrication – pure propaganda and ignorance spun out of thin air.
Coupled with the media’s most energetic gun-control loon, CNN’s Piers Morgan, abruptly announcing that it doesn’t really matter what kind of guns were used in the attack – after spending an entire day confidently and incorrectly asserting it was an AR-15 and declaring jihad against those evil assault rifles – this should represent the last pitiful squeak of the left-wing mass-murder ghouls. Can we set liberal politics aside now, and have one of those “national discussions” they’re always going on about, concerning the very real issue of mental illness?
Predictably, the Obama Administration has been trying to go in the wrong direction on this issue. “Just a few months ago, top officials in the Obama administration were stressing just how accommodating the security clearance system is to people who’ve experienced mental health concerns,” reports Politico.
Looming questions about how the Navy Yard shooter held a security clearance while exhibiting mental problems such as hallucinations could upend an ongoing administration effort to revamp the clearance process to encourage people to seek treatment for mental health issues, experts said.
“Anytime somebody with a history of mental illness commits an act of violence, you worry about blowback,” said Dr. Elspeth Ritchie, a former Army psychiatrist now with D.C.’s Department of Mental Health. “Will the pendulum swing on the level of the clearances? I don’t yet know…but yes, I worry about it.”
You know what I’m more worried about? Paranoid schizophrenics with a history of violent behavior who hear voices in their heads obtaining security clearances and access to vulnerable installations.
Officials told the New York Times Alexis had exhibited mental problems for a decade. Last month, he contacted Newport, R.I. police to complain he was being followed, hearing voices and being disturbed by a “microwave machine.” The Associated Press reported Alexis sought mental health treatment in August from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Part of the investigation of the Navy Yard shooting is expected to focus on a warning the Newport police gave the local Navy base about Alexis, and whether Navy officials adequately followed up on that information.
Would someone please tell this Administration to stop using the military as a laboratory for social experimentation? They’ve got an important job to do. Supposedly Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was already working on “reviewing security clearance procedures for contractors working in the intelligence community,” following the Edward Snowden debacle.
Clapper is the guy who vetted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and concluded they were “mostly secular.” He works for an Administration that got snookered by a 26-year-old con artist who lied about her credentials and assured them the Syrian rebels she worked for were also moderate and secular. I’m not exactly sanguine about the results of the Great Security Clearance Overhaul, but maybe it will be more swift and thorough, now that the Navy Yard shootings have lit fires beneath certain posteriors.
The big concern motivating the relaxation of security standards for people with mental illness is the concern that fear of losing their clearances would prevent them from seeking treatment. The Politico article cites military victims of sexual assault, “who said they were hesitant to seek counseling because of concerns that such visits could complicate security clearances.” That’s a reasonable concern to keep in mind, but we should be able to draw a line well south of people who think microwave ovens are out to get them.
Coincidentally, the Pentagon just released a report “showing 52 convicted felons had routine, unauthorized access to navy installations over roughly the past nine months,’ according to Fox News. What’s the justification for that? Is the government afraid of offending the sensibilities of convicted felons?
Are we supposed to accept that our mega-government – better qualified to run every business in America than its owners, able to micro-manage every aspect of our health care – is incapable of constructing policies that would distinguish between people with relatively minor issues who seek constructive counseling, and dangerously unstable individuals who shouldn’t be granted security clearances, or allowed to purchase guns?
“I suspect there is no real constituency in favor of the Second Amendment rights of the mentally ill – provided, of course, the definition of ‘mentally ill’ is clear, explicit, and taken seriously,” writes Jim Geraghty at National Review. As with the issue of security clearances, we would want to avoid stigmatizing minor mental illness, or making it too easy for federal or state agencies to begin declaring people “mentally unsound” willy-nilly and stripping them of Second Amendment rights. There would be much argument about these standards, but it could be a constructive debate.
Restricting gun ownership for people with serious mental health issues is not incompatible with our Constitutional order. Our system of government is based upon securing the consent of the governed. A person who is no longer able to give rational consent can be treated differently than a fully invested citizen. (One of the fundamental problems with our government today is that it doesn’t view any citizen as fully responsible. No one’s independence is worthy of complete respect.) We understand the concept of children being unable to give informed consent, so they don’t enjoy all the rights and privileges of adults. This is done out of concern for their safety, and for public safety. Similar reasoning can be applied to people with serious mental illness, again with the caution that we should be clear and careful about defining such conditions.
The most difficult situation to address would be cases like the Newtown shooting, in which the murderer stole perfectly legal weapons from his mother. It would be very delicate work to craft a law that restricted firearms ownership by someone who lives with, or takes care of, a person with mental health issues. There aren’t any easy, snap-your-fingers-and-fix-the-problem answers. That’s why we should discuss the issue clearly, candidly, and with full respect for the rights of all citizens. “Full respect” is not the same thing as grudgingly admitting that the “bitter clingers” still have an inconvenient legal right to own firearms.