20 October 2014
Unfit to keep and bear arms in New York State
A local paper reports that not only gun-rights advocates but mental-health advocates are protesting the designation by the state of New York of "some 34,500 persons" as mentally unfit to have firearms. Most of these people apparently self-diagnosed themselves, since it turns out that less than 300 people will have to give up their guns after these findings. Nevertheless, a Queens doctor, representing other mental-health advocates, worries that "too many people are being deemed dangerous." This doctor worries that some genuinely troubled people will be discouraged from seeking help because it might mean losing or being denied guns. He doesn't like that he has to report "any kind of dangerousness," which begs the question whether he believes in acceptable levels of "dangerousness" in mental patients. By comparison, the NRA looks almost reasonable in asking that decisions on mental fitness not be made "capriciously or maliciously," though their measures of caprice and malice may differ from other peoples'. Amid these concerns, it seems only fair that someone ask whether the number is actually too low. I concede, however, that other measures of fitness may be too subjective or controversial for psychiatrists to address scientifically -- even if those others may be the ones that count most.