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President’s Message

Marty-eJournal column pixby Marty Hayes, J.D.

In last month’s discussion of mental health and guns, I posed a question which went like this: “If a person voluntarily takes drugs that are federally regulated and strictly controlled, AND those drugs are known to produce suicidal or violent tendencies, might it not be a reasonable thing to require the psychiatrist to report the prescription to the National Instant Check System people, and to red-flag that person until they get off the drugs for a logical period of time?” When asked for your thoughts in answer to this question, boy did I ever get responses!

Resoundingly, our members were not in favor of such a mental health check process. The following comments were just a sample of responses I received regarding the subject:
“I can see the logic behind such a measure, but I am extremely leery of its potential for abuse or unintended consequences. I would like to proffer this thought: The real question is NOT whether persons of questionable sanity who are undergoing treatment with psychiatric drugs should be denied access to guns. Rather it is: Who gets to decide what constitutes questionable sanity and what constitutes a psychiatric drug?

“Working in a pharmacy I can tell you that there are MANY, MANY people (all ages and walks of life) using psychiatric medications. A quick Google search said that 13% of the US population is on antidepressants. That’s a lot of people and obviously a broad statement that they should be denied firearms is absurd. And antidepressants are just one of many classes of medications that fall under the category of ‘psychiatric.’ Sometimes violent tendencies can be treated successfully with medications but this can also be more of an ingrained behavioral pattern than a mental illness (in my opinion).”

Another member writes, “For about 20 years I worked ten to 15 hours a day, six days a week. That is what it took to get the job done. One day my wife said she was tired of being a work widow. I like my wife, a lot. I cut back office hours to ten hours a day five days a week and started taking vacation from time to time. That is when the insomnia started. Micro sleep at stoplights convinced me I had to fix the problem…I am not and never have been either suicidal or violent. I have six years of experience on a medication and 50 years of experience with firearms. I have never threatened or injured anyone. I am not a danger to anyone. There are millions of people in similar situations, who are also not a danger to anyone.”

Others echoed those concerns:
“While I, too, am concerned about violent, psychotic people possessing firearms, I do not believe the use of ‘psychiatric drugs’ should be a deciding factor in restricting a mental patient’s right to self defense. Additionally, the medical community with whom I have had contact could not be characterized as the most ‘gun friendly’ group out there. I believe their default position would to be to restrict first, ask questions later.”

“I have wondered about this before and in some ways like it, but shouldn’t the doctor then be required to tell the person all of the side effects of the drugs, including that they cannot buy guns? This would keep some people from agreeing to take the pills.”

“I do not trust any individual shrink to make unilateral decisions about the enumerated rights of other people who aren’t doing anything wrong at the time, even if they are well educated and acting with honor.”

“The proliferation of mental illnesses defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (5th Edition, the American Psychiatric Association) standard for such things, is particularly troubling in this regard. For that reason, a mere report of treatment from some politically correct healthcare provider should never be sufficient to restrict firearms access. At a bare minimum there must be legal proceedings required in such cases, not just some bureaucrat putting a person’s name on a list.”