Once again, the second amendment is under an all-out assault by the left. H.R. 127 -would among other things -require a mental health screening before purchasing a firearm. This has been in the works for some time, and in many instances, coercive mental health laws are already being used as a means of confiscating legally owned guns. Red-flag laws, for example, allow authorities to strip a person of their constitutionally protected right under the mere suspicion of what someone may consider bizarre or threatening behavior. In other words, under red-flag laws, an individual can report a gun owner to authorities if they think they are behaving strangely. The reported person has no knowledge of such a report and has no recourse. He is considered guilty until he can prove he is not a threat to society. H.R. 127 would turn a constitutionally protected right into a privilege that one must prove they are fit to exercise. Who is defining mental fitness/illness? How effective are the surveys, and are there other tests that can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of a mental illness? In defense of the right to keep and bear arms, this article will address these questions to give second amendment advocates the information needed to fight this bill.
It is important to understand that there is no indisputable evidence that mental illness even exists. This is a controversial and loaded statement that often elicits emotional responses. Certainly, there are emotional problems that become difficult for individuals to deal with, however, psychiatrists and psychologists freely admit that there is no biological test that proves the existence of an anomaly that causes behavioral diseases. Writing for Psychology Today, Dr. Barbara K. Lipska and Elaine McArdle state that mental health diagnoses are often based only on observations of behavior.
“The data suggest that mental illness is caused by a combination of heredity and environment, the latter involving multiple factors—including drug use and abuse—that act in complex interplay with one another and with our genes. But it remains exceedingly hard to pinpoint the biological and chemical processes for mental illness, in part because these disorders are diagnosed through observations of behaviors rather than through more precise tests. Unlike cancer and heart disease, mental illness has no objective measures—no biological markers that we can see on imaging scans or determine through laboratory tests—to tell us who is affected and who is not. In the aggregate, groups of people who suffer from mental illness may show differences in their brain structures or functions, but for now, individual patients cannot be diagnosed using conventional measures such as blood tests, CT scans, or MRIs.” (Psychology Today)
According to Dr. Nathaniel Lehrman, the term mental illness was once reserved for those exhibiting such bizarre behavior, they were unable to function as a member of society. Today, anyone exhibiting symptoms of behaviors that we all experience, such as sadness and anxiety, could be labeled mentally ill. The danger of being forced to submit to a psychiatric evaluation before purchasing a firearm lies in the inherent biases of those in the profession defining what mental illness is. Look at the DSM V, for example. There are over 300 mental health diagnoses that are all based on observations of behavior alone, with no tests of any kind to back them up. If you were given a survey, it is likely that they will be able to diagnose you with any one of these disorders and then label you mentally ill. If that sounds a bit fantastical, it is already happening in public schools. According to Lehrman, public schools were forced to implement the teen screening program in 2006 with the intent of identifying, “hidden mental illness” for the purpose of prescribing appropriate treatment. The treatment, of course, is psychiatric medication. Thousands of school children, based only on the results of the teen screen survey, are prescribed powerful drugs for diagnoses ranging from ADHD to obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, author of the books The Myth of Mental Illness and Law Liberty and Psychiatry: An Inquiry into the Social Uses of Mental Health Practices states that mental illness, in today’s language, has transformed from describing legitimate diseases of the brain, such as syphilis, to describing personality defects which affect otherwise harmonious relationships. Brain diseases are real and are identifiable as biological anomalies whereas, mental illness, with the keyword being mental, is attempting to describe a disease of the mind or mental state of being. Biological disease cannot exist in this manner; therefore, mental illness is being used to describe what is viewed as personality defects, or even problems of living.
“Mental illness—as a deformity of the personality, so to speak —is regarded as the cause of interpersonal or social disharmony. It is implicit in this view that social intercourse between people is regarded as something inherently harmonious, its disturbance being due solely to the presence of mental illness in many people. Clearly, this is faulty reasoning, for it makes the abstraction “mental illness” into a cause, even though this abstraction was originally created to serve as a shorthand expression for certain types of human behavior. It now becomes necessary to ask: What kinds of behavior are regarded as indicative of mental illness, and by whom?” (Szasz, Law, Liberty and Psychiatry, pp. 13-14)
If personality defects are now the standard-bearer for identifying mental illness, then it stands to reason there are certain traits that define what is or is not an acceptable personality. Looking at this from the perspective of gun control and H.R. 127, this can have major repercussions. Mental illness could, in theory, be defined as resistance to government authority simply for refusing to comply with gun control efforts. We have already seen a willingness on the part of our government to label those that oppose gun control as potential extremists.
The tactic of labeling political opposition as mentally ill has been used before. According to the book The Perestroika Deception (p. 15), psychiatry was used as a means for identifying those who rejected the communist party line. Communism was being presented as a system of fairness and equality, and refusal to go along was clearly seen as a personality defect. Normal people saw the reasonableness of Marxist ideology, only the mentally ill could not. The article Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, makes the claim that political conservatives are mentally ill because we are resistant to change, oppose equality and favor repressive systems which discriminate against others. With the recent events taking place at the capital, it is also reasonable to conclude that those believing the election was stolen could be considered mentally ill. There are already peer-reviewed studies being done identifying a belief in the Covid-19 conspiracy as an indicator of mental illness as well. Imagine going to the gun store to purchase a firearm and being denied because you were asked if you oppose immigration or believe Covid-19 originated in a lab. These are the potential eventualities of being forced to take a mental health evaluation. The terms could be defined in any way.
Anyone who has filled out the existing background check form knows it is already against the law to buy a gun if an individual has been adjudicated mentally defective by a court of law. The term adjudicated of course implies due process. A court of law has found sufficient reason to declare someone incompetent. This in and of itself is controversial, but mental health issues themselves ride a fine line between criminal, civil, and administrative law. According to Szasz, (pp. 182-183), criminal law is generally defined as an offense against the government that threatens good order whereas civil law is considered a violation between individuals which generally does not involve government. Administrative law is a system that operates outside the boundaries of the latter two. It is often bureaucrats and administrators that define the rules of psychiatric treatment law.
The problem with mental health today is that people accept the notion that government can deprive a person of their constitutionally protected rights if they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others (p. 184). There are several reasons for this. Szasz cites Ferd Paul Mihm (p. 184) in saying that it isn’t viewed as a punishment, as much as it is a therapeutic intervention meant to heal someone who is considered mentally ill.
Take red-flag laws for example. An individual is deprived of his constitutionally protected rights under the notion that he may be a danger to himself or others. The intervention is sold to the public as a means of getting the individual treatment; therefore, deprivation of his rights is acceptable. This has arisen due to what Szasz refers to as the rise of the therapeutic state. The United States government, according to Szasz (p. 212-213), has taken a therapeutic approach to the treatment of criminals based on the notions of leading psychologists that it is mental illness that drives a person to commit crimes. Therefore, they should not be released until cured. Also, according to Szasz, it is the public’s acceptance of the welfare state that has led to this mentality (p. 216). If the state is expected to play the role of parent and provider, the public will then be forced to play the role of a child. In other words, because a largely ignorant public is demanding the government take action to keep them safe from gun violence, using mental health laws to prevent said violence is acceptable. American law, according to Szasz (p. 219), has taken on an allure reminiscent of the old Soviet Union where people were likely to find themselves in court because they have exhibited an undesirable behavior, as opposed to committing a criminal offense. It has become the nature of the U.S. government to apply psychiatric treatment in the hopes of rehabilitating instead of punishing. Gun ownership is increasingly becoming viewed as undesirable behavior, just as conservatism is.
Consider the current state of the country. Depression, along with suicides due to social isolation, and the forced shutdown of the economy is surging because of COVID-19. An argument could be theoretically made that mental health is becoming an epidemic in and of itself. Forcing a mental health evaluation on everyone attempting to purchase a gun will surely prevent many people from completing the transaction. Especially if the questions are framed in such a manner where they are directly asking if you experienced any loss, or feelings of sadness because of Covid-19. Do not put it past them to do such a thing.
Mental illness is at best, an abstract concept which even psychiatrists and psychologists admit is not an exact science. There is no blood test and no biological indicator for the presence of a mental illness. Most mental health diagnoses are based on observations of behavior alone. In this article, we have examined some of the defining concepts of how mental illness is viewed, and the behaviors which could be considered mentally defective. Conservatism itself, in the eyes of social science, meets the definitions of mental illness because of our so-called rigid resistance to change.
Acceptance of change, or of the state as being all-powerful, could be viewed as normal rational behavior, and freedom, as a sign of irrationality. There is no objective standard when it comes to defining mental illness because unlike real biological diseases which can be positively identified as anomalous ailments of the body, sickness of the mind simply does not exist in a physical form. Therefore, it can be described in any way by anyone who has the power to define acceptable, or unacceptable behavior. The use of psychiatry as a tool to deprive an individual of their rights is indeed a dangerous path to tread.
There will be more to come on this topic.
(Author’s note: sources not linked were retrieved from the Liberty University online library)