Don’t Ban Guns Just for “Mental Defectives” Like Me


Once again, in the wake of another senseless mass murder with an assault rifle, there is renewed talk about more laws limiting the sale and possession of guns.  I support some of them.  Nobody needs a high-powered weapon that shoots 100 or more rounds a minute.  It is not something you would take to the woods to hunt deer, only to resist or attempt an invasion.

The gun control talk includes proposed laws to keep guns away from people with a “history of mental illness.”  I testified against such a law in the NH Legislature a couple of years ago, and would again tomorrow, just days after the latest abomination.

sylVia LARSONI felt strange in that witness chair, opposing my state Senator Sylvia Larson (D), senate president and one of the leading progressives in my state, whom I usually agree with on issues.  I agreed instead with the “usual suspects” in the 2nd Amendment, absolute gun rights crowd, who usually make me nervous.

But the “gunnies” were right about one thing this one time:

Sen. Larson, and the “mothers against guns” group supporting this law, really want to take guns away from everybody, or as many people as possible.    They know they don’t have enough political support to do that, so they go after the low-hanging fruit.

On this issue, no fruit hangs lower than people with a history of mental illness – “mental defectives,” as Sen. Larson — a social worker by trade — called us over and over and over in her testimony in favor of her bill.  (She opened that statement saying her bill does not stigmatize people with mental illness.)

We’re easy targets because people are already scared of us, and think we’re all dangerous time bombs that could explode anywhere, anytime, for no reason.

Just this morning (Dec. 18) on public radio, a talk show panelist raised an objection to gun laws aimed at people with mental health histories very similar to the one I raised to Sen. Larson’s bill:

There is no test or objective way to predict who might become violent. “A history of mental illness” is much too broad a definition, he said, and many people who open fire randomly with assault rifles have no documented history of emotional problems at all.

Sen. Larson’s bill, which was copied from a model written by a national gun control group, narrowed the definition of what they called “mental defectives” to  anyone who was ever released from a psychiatric facility on a conditional discharge, or ever had a guardian appointed.

One third of the patients released from NH’s psychiatric hospital are given conditional discharges, intended to create consequences for failing to cooperate with outpatient treatment after release.  When the hospital or family asks the court to appoint a guardian for someone, it’s usually because the person can’t handle his own money or sign his own contracts.  Very occasionally, in special circumstances, the court appoints a guardian to authorize forced treatment.

Need I say that I’m dead-set against forced treatment and outpatient commitment?  That’s beside the point here.  The point is that neither of those things has anything to do with a person’s potential for violence.

After being called a “mental defective” by my state senator many times in a few minutes, I told the committee, when it was my turn to speak, that “I’ve never been called a nigger, but I’ve been called a kike and a Jew-bastard and a whacko.  I felt the same just now, listening to Sen. Larson call me names.  You can’t tell me this bill does not stigmatize or discriminate against me and people like me,” I said.

We should ban those assault rifles for everyone (my choice), or no one, or violent felons, not just “mental defectives” like me.








Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


  1. Indeed, there has been much blaming of people with mental health diagnosis in the wake of these killings yet the evidence is the those with mental health diagnosis are less likely to commit violent crimes than those without. In fact they are more likely to be victims.

    I suspect this is a way for America to avoid dealing with the real problems, the easy availability of very dangerous fire arms.

  2. I completely agree with you. While I used to be all for guns when I was younger, I’ve changed my mind after years of logical thought about it. Since criminals will always have the initiative, in effect knowing who they are and when they will strike, how can armed citizens expect to protect themselves using guns? Wouldn’t they have to be psychic as well? How can somebody argue that a shooting was self defense when the fact that the shooter was REACTING to the situation and yet was unharmed is proof that he was never in any danger, unless in rare cases the criminal somehow stumbled and messed up? If a criminal wanted you dead, such as by deciding that he was going to initiate a robbery by shooting you first, then you will be shot dead before you even know you’re being robbed. The fact that you have an opportunity to “stand your ground” means that your life was most likely never in danger to begin with.

    Anyway, banning high capacity magazines aren’t going to do any good. There are no guns commercially available in the united states that are capable of rapid fire. Really, only chain-fed guns typically mounted to ships and tanks are. Guns like the AR-15 or even a SKS will over heat and jam up very quickly if you begin rapid firing. You’ll be lucky to get off 10 rounds before it jams. It’s also incredibly hard to shoot accurately with rapid fire, it really does more to scare people than to hit them. Rapid fire is only used in military combat as cover fire to get enemies to duck while people move into position.

    • Yes, because we all know that if we outlaw guns only criminals will have them, just as is (not) the case in all other countries who have banned guns. Street thugs are not going to walk around carrying guns when it carries a 15-25 years prison sentence. Even criminals who have guns are going to keep them locked up and hidden in case of a gun war, they’re not going to just be casually walking around and committing robberies with a life-in-prison sentence in their pocket.

      Even more importantly though is the fact that none of these mass shooters have acquired their guns on the black market. I happen to know a little something about the black market, having spent a lot of time in my teenage and early adult years around criminals. The black market is VERY SELECTIVE about who it sells to. You have to KNOW PEOPLE and have CONNECTIONS to buy on the black market. Nobody in the black market is going to sell to somebody who is unstable and may possibly bring a multimillion dollar federal investigation against them.

      Banning guns would in fact end these mass shootings. Besides that, have you ever thought about how the fact that citizens carry guns just increases the likelihood that a robber will just shoot first? As somebody who does not carry a gun I do in fact worry about being shot in a robbery simply because the criminal is afraid that I MIGHT be carrying a gun. The concealed carry laws do in fact put us in much more danger for these 2 reasons 1: Criminals have the initiative, knowing in fact who they are and when they will strike whereas you do not and 2: Criminals are aware that citizens can carry concealed hang-guns by law and can adjust their strategy around that fact.

      These two things make it impossible for concealed carry to make anybody safer.

      • A few weeks ago there was a bank robbery one afternoon in the city where I live. As the robber as making his exit from the bank, a bystander walking down the sidewalk realized what was happening and pulled out his concealed weapon and started firing away. After he’d fired numerous shots he finally stopped. He’d not come anywhere near to shooting the robber but almost took out three innocent bystanders in the vicinity! The fool was upset because the three people he’d come close to shooting were highly irate with him! The police weren’t too happy with him either but they couldn’t do much about him since he had a permit to carry a concealed gun. Wonderful huh?!

        • I would need a link to a news article to believe that. Firing a gun in public and missing your target is a reckless discharge of a firearm and is a felony in my state. Every now and then I do read about people in the news who pulled their gun in self defense, missed their target and got charged with that crime. In fact there was some guy in the Detroit Free Press a couple years ago who got sentenced to 18 months in jail FOR ACCIDENTALLY SHOOTING HIMSELF IN THE LEG!

          • I don’t have a link to the newspaper article and wouldn’t know how to put it here if I did since I’m technology challenged. However, the incident is true and caused some furor in the alternative newspaper. Our main newspaper is very reactionary and supports all kinds of things, like carrying concealed weapons, so it didn’t get too worked up about it. The alternative newspaper was not happy about it at all and expressed concerns about whether we’re going to turn into Tombstone with vigilantes running all over the place.

            I live in the Buckle of the Bible Belt of the South. A lot of strange things are allowed here that would get you in lots of trouble anywhere else. This guy got off with a reprimand and was allowed to go on his way.

  3. “There is no test or objective way to predict who might become violent. “A history of mental illness” is much too broad a definition, he said, and many people who open fire randomly with assault rifles have no documented history of emotional problems at all.”

    As one of these so-called mental defectives, I take extreme umbrage at being called a “mental defective.” There is nothing defective about being mentally ill, nor are people with a history of mental illness to be feared, degraded, demeaned or otherwise made to feel that just because a small percentage of people with mental illness have committed acts of extreme violence that they too belong in that group.

    Most people with mental illnesses are just trying to cope with or manage their illness. Many have histories of mental health issues going back to childhood. Many of us so-called defectives are, in fact, extremely bright. Many go to college, and do very well. Many of us over-compensate due to the fact that we are mentally “interesting.” The vast majority of people with issues like depression, manic depressive illness, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, and many other mood and personality disorders spend a lot of their energy just trying to make peace with the fact that they do have a chronic mental health issue.

    Most, if not the majority, of people who do suffer from chronic mental illness are completely harmless. They are more likely to hurt themselves than others. I read an article in the Huffington post where one mental health professional was calling for more complete “reporting” of people with mental health problems. I fail to see where that would help prevent the massacres that have happened in recent decades. If anything, it would further stigmatize these people, and would be detrimental to their outcomes.

    We already feel different than others, we already feel guilt and shame that we have a mental illness, we already feel that we have let many people down by being ill and needing help to live a reasonably “normal” life, and we feel very badly when one of our “episodes” has a direct effect on those who care about us.

    I agree that mental illness should preclude a person from acquiring a firearm, but I also believe and agree that assault weapons and magazines that can hold enough bullets to hold off a small army have no place in this society. As the quote above points out, there is no objective way to determine who will become violent. The movie “Falling Down” highlights this. A “normal” middle aged man suddenly decides he has had it, and goes on a killing spree. There is no indication that the character had a “history” of mental illness.

    It is my wish and hope that this latest school shooting will open a meaningful (and I use that word because past discussions have been somewhat insincere)dialogue about access to quality mental health care for anyone who needs it, and tightens the gun control laws. It is simply too easy for anyone to acquire a gun in this country. If the local licensed gun dealer won’t sell a person a weapon due to a history of violence or mental health problems, just wait for the next gun show. Someone there will be more than happy to sell anyone anything they want. These shows need to be regulated as well. Private dealers must be held to the same standards as a licensed dealer.

    And, as the quote above points out, not all spree killings have been perpetrated by the mentally ill. Society just assumes that anyone who would do such a thing must as a matter of course be mentally ill because no rational person would do something like that. Well, perfectly rational people can become irrational just like everyone else. There is no requirement that says that only the “normal” people are rational.

  4. Do people think the United States will disarm police officers? How about the Army? Marines?

    Never going to happen.

    “I knew a guy once who had the answer to this dilemma. When the government comes to take away his rights — and it could be any time, he told me — he’d break out his supply of loaded assault weapons and defend himself, which is his obligation as a man, and his right under the 2nd Amendment.”

    The guy is correct.

    I do not have a gun. If a police officer has a gun, but I do not, I consider him (or her) to be a threat to me. If I were equally armed, within my legal right to be, then we will be seeing eye to eye.

    Unless all governments and armies across the planet are disarmed (which simply will not ever happen), I do not agree with “banning guns” for citizens.
    Generals and Majors