In the United States, those with mental illnesses severe enough to land them in psychiatric wards are not supposed to have guns by federal law. As someone with a mental illness (that did indeed lead to my being put temporarily in a psychiatric ward) and as someone who would like very much to own a gun, I’m not sure how I feel about this.
First thing’s first: you’re probably wondering why I want a gun so badly. Well, the answer is self-defense–I’m paranoid of people breaking in. I know what they say, that Americans love their guns, but really, the fact of the matter is this: in a country where guns are legal, it may be necessary to own a gun to defend yourself against them. If guns were outlawed by some kind of blanket federal rule, then no, I probably would not want to own a gun. But that is a very unlikely event.
But in the wake of Virginia Tech disaster, the public panicked, and the bureaucrats needed to reassure people that laws would be put in place to help prevent it from happening again. They accomplished this by targeting the mentally ill.
Now, yes, Cho (the VT shooter) was severely mentally ill. And obviously, he was violent. Yet this does not mean that the mentally ill population at large is any more likely to be violent than the sane population. But here’s the thing: the law does not apply to everyone with a diagnosis of a mental illness. If it did, then I would absolutely be against it.
The law only applies to those mentally ill who were committed, due to representing a threat to oneself or others.
And this seems to make sense to me. I mean, why hand a gun to someone who in the past had to be put away from society to prevent him from committing a suicide or homicide? And yet, again, as someone with a mental illness, it kind of stings.
I mean, other factors, including gender, are more likely to contribute to violence than mental illness is. Should we then ban all men (the most likely population to be violent) from having guns? Somehow I don’t think that would go down too well.
After doing a bit of research, I believe the law only applies to those who were involuntarily committed. As I was officially voluntarily committed, (I had zero choice in the matter; I simply did not resist being sent to the hospital and so my psychologist had no need to call it involuntary) I believe this means I could still legally own a gun.
But still, the law bothers me.