I just watched President Obama’s “Shameful Day for Washington” speech, and I take issue with the fact that he included people with severe mental illness in a group he described as “dangerous individuals.” Here’s what he said:
“By now it’s well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun. We’re talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness.”
I think president Obama is well intentioned, but he should have at least qualified his statement by saying something like “… people with severe mental illness who prove to be a danger to themselves or others.” Here’s why: Grouping all people with severe mental illness in with convicted felons and perpetrators of domestic violence…
I think a more general exclusion would be more appropriate, something more along the lines of Arizona’s wording: Arizona prohibits possession of a firearm by any person who “Has been found to constitute a danger to himself or herself… and whose right to possess a firearm has not been restored.”
Personally, I think universal background checks are a good idea. Extending them to guns purchased at gun shows or over the Internet seems like a no-brainer. But we need to be careful not to treat everyone with a severe mental illness as a dangerous criminal.
What do you think: Should severe mental illness be an exclusion for gun ownership?
President Obama photo by borman 818, available through a Creative Commons attribution license
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