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Mass Murder, Guns, and Mental Health

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Robert Leider of U. Pa. has this op-ed in the WSJ.  He calls for breaking the stalemate on gun-control legislation by both sides yielding a bit.

Leider also notes:

In addition to guns, the common denominator in most of these mass shootings has been mental illness. Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), Jared Lee Loughner (Tucson, Ariz.), James Eagen Holmes (in the Aurora, Colo. theater), and now Adam Lanza all had significant mental health problems. As the country turns its attention to overhauling its health-care delivery system, we must discuss improving access and delivery of mental health care to those who need it. As part of this conversation, we need to update federal firearm laws as they relate to persons with mental illness--laws that currently are primitive and rooted in stereotypes.
True as far as it goes.  However, as the Lanza case indicates, a mentally ill person need not personally purchase the firearms.  Leider says, "Gun owners (especially close relatives of such persons, such as Adam Lanza's mother) should also be obligated to store unused firearms safely so that potentially dangerous persons and minor children do not gain easy access to them."  How would you enforce that?  Home inspections?

The mental health issue in greatest need of attention is the standard for involuntary treatment.  The legal hurdle of dangerousness is simply too high, given the difficulty of predicting and proving dangerousness.  This is the classic case of yesterday's reform being today's problem.  America overreacted to the "Cuckoo's Nest" problem and swung too far in the other direction. 

The problem is not, as is commonly asserted, underfunding of community mental health clinics.  Those clinics are not turning away seriously mentally ill people for lack of funding.  Quite the contrary, they often overdiagnose mental illness in people who actually just need counseling just to get the government money flowing.  And flow it does.  The problem is that the people in greatest need of treatment do not volunteer for it.  The very illness that needs treatment prevents them from making a rational decision whether to seek it.  That problem should be the first priority.

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