New laws hit innocents in crossfire

In Opinion

The Virginia Tech massacre was the first mass shooting in my lifetime that I was aware of, the first in which I understood what was going on. I was a sophomore in high school at the time, and my peers around me all had the front pages of the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register, each splashed with an image of Seung-Hui Cho pointing his two guns at the camera.

It was the infamous photo that was sent to NBC News by Cho himself.

This was one of just many shootings America has endured since the Columbine rampage in 1999. Years later I started having a better understanding of these tragedies and noticed a slew of misunderstandings regarding mental health that continue to loom today, most recently after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting this past December which left 20 children and six staff members dead.

Are you clinically depressed? Have anxiety issues? Dealing with a bipolar disorder? How about Asperger’s syndrome? Surely, it’s safe for someone to assume you’re going to be another Adam Lanza, Dylan Klebold or Seung-Hui Cho.

These false assumptions are the foundation for several laws going into, or already are in, effect throughout several states. The New York Times recently detailed these state plans. New York state recently passed a law that requires mental practitioners to alert authorities about potentially dangerous patients. As a result, law enforcement officials would have to confiscate any firearms owned by said patient.

In Ohio, a law is being proposed that those with mental illnesses could not commit to outpatient treatment unless they prove that they are a risk to the substantial rights of themselves or others. In Colorado, there is already a law in place that calls for the same circumstances.

These laws and proposals are aimed at keeping a much closer eye on the mentally ill, and part of doing that is keeping everyone who has been diagnosed or are seemingly harmful due to their mental condition, from obtaining gun ownership.

These laws widely assume that every single person battling a mental disorder is dangerous and that they’re all most likely going to lash out and go on a rampage.

If you’re reading this, and you happen to be someone or know someone who is struggling with any form of a psychological disorder, you very well know that these assumptions are more than likely untrue and a little absurd.

A law like what Ohio is proposing could prevent “other” mentally ill patients—those who are not deemed dangerous—from getting the fair treatment they need and desire to improve their well-being.

According to mental experts for the American Journal of Psychiatry, the mentally ill have only been involved in 4 percent of violent crimes. Only 4 percent.

This may seem shocking considering recent events, but if one examines all this from a more statistical standpoint, such events are still indeed rare. In fact, additional studies suggest the mentally ill are 11 times more likely to be the victims of violent crime themselves.

People should understand that not everyone battling mental illnesses are violent or dangerous in any way. Everyone struggling with various disorders are at different points on the spectrum, so to speak. Take bipolar disorder, for example. Some people don’t really have it as bad as others, and even if someone did, they’re more than likely dealing with it differently than the next person.

Regardless, everyone looking to buy guns should go through a rigorous screening process to look out for anger tendencies; it’s about monitoring behavior itself rather than lumping the mentally ill together, making them the scapegoat. In Indiana, for example, whether or not one has ever been diagnosed with a psychological disorder, a person could have their firearms taken away if they’re seen as a potential threat.

Point is, something has to be done to protect us all, whether or not we are suffering from various mental disorders. People may be up in arms about being screened and examined regardless, particularly in regards to privacy concerns and such, but if you know that there’s a slim chance of you using your firearms in a dangerous and irresponsible manner, then what’s the problem?

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