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By Paul Meekin
There isn’t anybody out there who doesn’t have a mental health issue, whether it’s depression, anxiety, or how to cope with relationships. – Howie Mandell
If I told you the NRA, Republicans, Donald Trump, and the ACL “F’n” U all agreed on something, you’d call me crazy. And thanks to the legislation they agree on, that wouldn’t prevent me from owning a gun.
Sorry, that was a cheap joke. In reality, Donald Trump, the Republican Congress, and the ACLU did really get together to repeal a restriction placed on mentally ill citizens that would prevent them from purchasing a firearm.
“But Paul!” You might say, “All I’ve heard from those dastardly Republicans is that mass shootings and gun violence is a mental health issue and not a gun access issue! Why would they turn around and give gun access *back* to those with mental health issues?!”
“Well,” I would say to just about every person under the age of 30 on my Facebook feed, “Because it was the right thing to do.” They would then make a funny face and unfriend me for swimming against the tide of my generation.
In December, a rule was passed that stated if you received social security and were unable to handle your personal affairs due to mental illness, you would be added to the national background check database – thus resulting in a failed background check despite you never committing a crime or posing a threat or danger to anyone. More importantly, without due process. You were guilty until proven innocent – where you’d need to petition the government for ‘relief’ in order to own a gun.
I am of the mind that freedom and liberty means you don’t punish people based on the fact they “could” commit a crime. And yes, I am aware this ideology results in domestic terrorism, gun violence, and guilty people going free. That is the fundamental price of liberty and the American dream. The alternative is a slippery slope of “for your own good” legislation made by an increasingly intrusive government that has banned trans fats, taxed soda, limited soda “size,” taxed bags, and constantly acted as if it knows whats best for ‘the people’, despite being made up of people that are just as capable of folly.
Most importantly, I am NOT a fan of lists when it comes to law. Whether it be no-fly lists, immigration ban lists, illegal drug lists, and so on. It limits people. It reduces people to numbers and data. And data can be wrong, manipulated, misinterpreted, and exploited.
The ACLU said it best:
“…It advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent. There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence. “
Some time ago I briefly dated a woman who could not handle her personal affairs. She didn’t have the proverbial computational power to handle finances, bills, and the numbers and resources associated with daily living, and she had what I assume was federal assistance with those issues – talking with them on the phone about appointments and responsibilities she had. She was also really sweet and a talented hair dresser.
She was also quite fond of online dating and thus met a lot of strangers. Based on the law as it was, she would be on that mental health ban list, and likely wouldn’t be allowed to own a gun to protect herself if one of those dates went awry – and in fact would be forced to challenge the federal government if she wanted one.
And if literally everything the federal government has done, ever, is to be believed, that process would have been needlessly complex and obnoxiously obtuse.
Speaking of obtuse, I do comprehend that gun control is a complicated issue and gun violence is a growing tragedy. But I would advise people sharing negative views of this story to consider what exactly it’s doing. The law, as it was, singled out a group of people, based on little evidence, demonized them, and restricted their constitutional rights in the name of national security.
So, what can be done? What can we do that tackles gun violence in a way that is fair, tough, and effective? One plan I like is one suggested by Bill O’Reilly on Stephen Colbert’s show during an excellent debate between the two of them.
- Congress debates which guns are allowed, including serious discussion regarding high capacity rifles and ammo.
- Every single crime committed with a gun – regardless of intent, becomes a federal case.
- Regardless of the crime committed, a 10 year federal penalty is imposed on top of the penalty for the actual crime – robbery, theft, breaking and entering, etc – committed.
If you ask me, this seems…mostly fair. It’s a tough penalty for violating the trust the government has in you to be a responsible gun owner. People can keep their guns and get their guns with the express knowledge that if they use that gun irresponsibly, they will go away for a long, long time.
From a libertarian perspective, banning certain firearms might rub up against the beliefs of freedom and liberty. You may not agree with that plan, but it’s something and approaches fairness – or is at least worth considering.
Regardless, gun rights are fundamental to America. To protect ourselves from those who wish to harm us, to provide personal security, and to guard us against tyranny. It is an awesome responsibility that should never be taken lightly, and legislating that responsibility shouldn’t be taken lightly, either – it is a serious topic for serious and smart people.
And regardless of whether you support the GOP, the ACLU, or Donald Trump, it appears they made the smart decision here – together. And that’s the kind of sentence that WILL drive you crazy.
EDITOR’s NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, they are not representative of The Libertarian Republic or its sponsors.
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