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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The federal government believed Colby Sue Weathers was a paranoid schizophrenic. It had information that she was delusional and suicidal, unable to work and therefore eligible for Medicaid and disability benefits.

One summer day in 2012, Weathers cashed her government check, bought a .45 caliber pistol from a Missouri gun shop, returned home and shot her father dead.

So here’s the question: If the federal government considers a person mentally ill enough to receive financial benefits, why can’t it also decide that person is dangerous enough to be banned from buying a gun?

Ask that question, and you tumble down a mineshaft.

Members of Congress leap to protect the Second Amendment, especially on behalf of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who might receive disability benefits. Medical professionals fear they’ll bear culpability for pronouncing a person dangerous or for not finding one so, if the patient then goes on to commit a violent act. Mental health advocates warn against stereotyping people suffering from depression as dangerous. Privacy experts fear medical records will be compromised and say the government shouldn’t be cross-pollinating its records systems. The Social Security Administration would have to share data with the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which federally licensed gun dealers use.

And the NRA would just as soon keep talking about the lack of mental health treatment options, and keep firearms out of the conversation altogether.

And yet the intersection between guns and mental illness is the one point that has gained traction with the public, as incident after incident happens in which a mentally unstable person takes a gun and commit mass murder. Bit by bit, progress has been made. States have become better at reporting to the federal registry — some states. Many are still reluctant to comply with their duty to do so, and it will be a difficult struggle to bring them into the fold.

The sad story of Weathers is an apt illustration that this compliance is necessary. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence filed a wrongful death lawsuit filed in March against the Odessa, MO gun shop that sold her the pistol. The Brady case argues that the gun shop owners were negligent in selling Weathers the gun, in part because her mother begged them not to do so.

Janet Delana called the shop two days prior, giving them detailed information of her daughter’s mental health struggles, substance abuse and suicidal intent. She was a compelling figure at a press conference: a woman racked with the dual pain of grieving the death of her husband, Tex Delana, and the fate of her only daughter, who is now facing criminal charges.

It’s a tragedy that could have been prevented at multiple points.

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7 responses to “Better Gun Laws Needed To Protect The Mentally Ill — And The Rest Of Us”

  1. Dominick Vila says:

    Of course we need better laws to limit the probability of mentally ill people and criminals to purchase guns at gun shows or via the Internet. That ought to be a given for anyone capable of rational thinking…and that’s why the NRA and the GOP opposes any restrictions on the ability to buy lethal weapons. They are either incapable of thinking logically, or they are so greedy that they are willing to sacrifice their families, friends and neighbors to make an extra buck.

  2. jointerjohn says:

    I would love to see sensible gun control laws enacted but the American public just isn’t pissed off enough yet to do it. Better that the democratic party, the only major party we have with any sanity left, drop this issue. The GOP knows there is a paranoid minority out there they can turn into political automotons with this single issue and that is exactly what they do. While they are a small minority, they are strident enough about their deadly pacifiers to swing some congressional districts and state houses away from reasonable governance. Lets work on wage and gender equality, campaign finance control and other critical matters. Later, when Americans have finally seen enough of this NRA stupidity they will back us, but they aren’t ready to do that right now.

    • idamag says:

      You are right about dropping the issue. When our streets, movie theaters, malls and schools become war zones and business starts to suffer because people are not going out, then maybe, the demand for stricter background checks will come about.

      • jointerjohn says:

        Thank you. I value your observations frequently on this site. Right now we can’t even get a consensus from police officers and school authorities, all we are doing is throwing the right wing some cheap and easy campaign fodder. It’s just too bad more people will be harmed before we arrive at the only sensible conclusion. You are so right that it will be business that will lead the process, as nothing rings louder in American politics than the cash register.

  3. idamag says:

    Adam Lanza and George Zimmerman’s second amendment rights superseded school children and Trayvon Martin’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    • Paul Bass says:

      I’m a father of an autistic, and have brought this up to this same group of parents (in TX). ALL say it is a very BAD idea to teach a child who doesn’t relate well to people anyway (an autistic), how to use a high capacity weapon, or any gun. I understand 2nd amendment, hunting, tradition, etc. , still a BAD idea.

  4. ThomasBonsell says:

    Since the Second Amendment clearly ties society’s right to keep and bear arms with the obligation of states to maintain a well regulated militia, the National Guard should decide who should have a weapon. Not mentally fit for National Guard duty, not mentally fit to own a firearm.
    The Militia Act of 1903 clearly makes the National Guard the Organized Militia and all able-bodied men 18-45 the Reserve Militia, as it was in the 18th century. So, right wingers, don’t try to argue that the National Guard has nothing to do with the Second Amendment’s militias.

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