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Severe Mental Illness and Gun Regulation

Last week, President Trump signed a bill to undo a piece of legislation about gun control that Obama had previously signed. The bill was designed to keep guns out of the hands of the most severely mentally ill people. It required the Social Security Administration to report the names of those people on disability for a mental health issue that are unable to handle their finances and need the assistance of a third party to control their benefits.

There is nothing about the rolling back of this bill that makes sense. In popular culture, those of us with a severe mental illness (I have paranoid schizophrenia), are still portrayed as killers and monsters. Although those portrayals are inaccurate and don’t bare out with statistics (statistics show that people with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of a crime than a perpetrator), it is still the view many have of severely mentally ill people. I am all for the stigma of us as killers to go away, and advocates are making progress, but it is still a storyline in many popular television dramas. How then, with this view still being held by so many can the government approve of guns for those people with the most severe symptoms?

People will argue that it is a matter of rights. I say elected officials don’t get to have their cake and eat it, too. If Congress and the President are worried about our rights, why not start with more treatment facilities (instead of warehousing in prisons), employment protections, housing, etc. Why pick the issue of guns rights over the things that would work to give us a chance at equality in other areas? If they care about our rights, start by treating us as equal and valuable human beings with programs and protections that will help us live a more productive and healthy life. It appears to be more about pleasing a strong gun lobby (NRA) than any actual rights.

I am not at all opposed to being banned from owning a firearm. Even though the majority of mentally ill people are not violent, they are at a high risk of hurting themselves, and when someone has a break from reality (an episode of psychosis), they are not reliable or stable in that state. The combination of psychosis and a firearm opens the door to tragedy. I for one do not want to be in a position of being psychotic and having a weapon. It is easy to imagine all the possible scenarios from that, and most of them do not result in a happy ending. And because police have become the default responders in mental health calls a high percentage of people shot by police are mentally ill.

So, thank you elected officials for saying that you care about my rights, but in this case, it appears that my life and the safety of others isn’t what matters. Someone who has severe enough symptoms not to be able to control their finances shouldn’t be allowed to hunt, or collect, or even purchase a weapon. It is beyond common sense and makes our lives and rights seem less important rather than equally important.

Photo by {Thud}

Severe Mental Illness and Gun Regulation

Rebecca Chamaa

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APA Reference
Chamaa, R. (2017). Severe Mental Illness and Gun Regulation. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 14 Mar 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Mar 2017
Published on All rights reserved.