When it comes to reducing gun violence, Gun-nut Nation and its new fuhrer have the perfect solution: lock up every criminal who ever carried a gun and oh, by the way, ‘fix’ the mental health system to make sure that the nutty guy who uses a gun to settle some delusional score or another isn’t allowed to get his hands on a gun.
I’ve been listening to this nonsense for the past twenty years, and while there certainly is something to the idea of removing violent criminals from the streets, the only people who believe that the phrase ‘fix the mental health system’ means anything at all are the same folks who stand around the fence outside Area 51 hoping to see a Martian space ship come down. But the problem is that every once in a while someone from that bunch gets elected to Congress (or the White House) and when they try to rewrite a law which makes it easier for mentally-ill people to get their hands on guns, then the nonsense takes a more serious turn.
And the latest piece of legislative nonsense is a bill just filed by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) called the “Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act,” which basically undercuts the process by which the VA declares someone to be considered ‘mentally incompetent’ and thus unable to own or buy a gun. This is a replay of the action taken last month by Congress to annul Obama’s regulation requiring the Social Security Administration to report to FBI-NICS the names of persons who were no longer handling their own financial affairs. In this case, the new regulation goes even further because not only is a judicial exercise required before a final determination of mental incompetency can be made, but the court has to find that the mental impairment is such that the individual would be a “danger to himself or herself or others.”
Incidentally, Congressman Roe is not only a physician (OB-GYN) but is co-chair of something called the ‘GOP Doctors Caucus,’ which claims to be leading the fight for patient-centered health care which, if they inserted the word ‘rich’ before the word ‘patient’ might aptly describe the GOP’s effort to ‘replace’ the ACA. But either way, if this group of physicians-turned pro-gun legislators believes they are bringing needed clarity to the determination by the VA as to which veterans should have guns and which shouldn’t, it’s about as much clarity as what Trump has brought to the discussion about his connections to Putin and the Russian money-mob.
The proposed law not only calls for a court procedure to determine gun-owning fitness by veterans who collect VA benefits, but requires this procedure to be conducted by a court which doesn’t actually exist. And worse, the law also stipulates that the only criteria which this non-existent court can use to determine gun-owning fitness is that it would have to be shown that the particular veteran was a ‘danger’ to himself or others.
Now I agree that the fact that I designate someone else to handle my financial affairs doesn’t, in and of itself, necessarily create the suspicion that I am prone to engage in dangerous behavior. But that’s not the point. The argument for keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands’ has never been based on any foolproof test that can be used to predict violent behavior before it occurs. The argument is based on the idea that certain people who behave in certain ways (violent criminals, mentally ill, etc.) are more prone to behave violently and the easiest way to commit a violent act is to use a gun.
If the Republicans decide to undo the ‘wrong hands’ argument for determining fitness for gun ownership, they will be erasing public policies that go back to the first federal gun law passed in 1934. But since every gun-control law has been the handiwork of Democratic administrations, isn’t it time we gave the other side a chance?