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26 May 2014


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John Minnerath

Yet another example of the total lack of any real mental health program to deal with troubled individuals in the country.
Here was a guy who had been in therapy for almost his entire life, yet somehow this information was never passed on.
There should have been red flags raised, but how can it be done when it seems to be that all such mental health issues needs to be kept secret. It's all reactionary with no proactive programs, nothing can happen till a crime is committed and law enforcement gets involved.

Because a firearm was involved it's all about guns. This in a state with some of the most restive gun laws in the nation. Remember he also somehow managed to kill 3 men in a knife attack and did a great amount of damage with a motor vehicle.



Amusingly, a Saudi wrote on a US blog that in his country such a thing could not happen because ordinary people are not allowed to have such weapons. That's true but he lives in a "country" that is a theocratic tyranny in which women are stoned to death for adultery, hands are amputated for theft, etc.

At the same time it must be said that if we are to retain our Second Amendment rights the mental health professionals must yield or be forced to yield the records of treatment to the gun sale check process at the state and federal levels. In all the recent firearms massacres, the common thread is mental illness and the absence of evidence of that illness in the background check process. the sole exception would be the Sandy Hook killings in which the mother gave her firearms to her mentally ill son. pl

John Minnerath

I agree. There are serious dangers to civil liberties involved because of how information from psychiatrists and therapists could be used. But, it's time for meaningful discussion among the metal heath professions to develop a workable plan to identify dangerous and disfunctional individuals in society.

You know my feelings on States Rights and I'd really like to see this done at a state level somehow. With the way the current NICS check works, I think it could be done.

John Minnerath

Pretty decent article on this currently at:


I remembered this big article took up at least one full page in the New York Times. What I'm quoting below is the beginning. The article goes on but it doesn't get any better; each example is as bad or worse as the others.


When the Right to Bear Arms Includes the Mentally Ill

"Last April, workers at Middlesex Hospital in Connecticut called the police to report that a psychiatric patient named Mark Russo had threatened to shoot his mother if officers tried to take the 18 rifles and shotguns he kept at her house. Mr. Russo, who was off his medication for paranoid schizophrenia, also talked about the recent elementary school massacre in Newtown and told a nurse that he “could take a chair and kill you or bash your head in between the eyes,” court records show.

The police seized the firearms, as well as seven high-capacity magazines, but Mr. Russo, 55, was eventually allowed to return to the trailer in Middletown where he lives alone. In an interview there recently, he denied that he had schizophrenia but said he was taking his medication now — though only “the smallest dose,” because he is forced to. His hospitalization, he explained, stemmed from a misunderstanding: Seeking a message from God on whether to dissociate himself from his family, he had stabbed a basketball and waited for it to reinflate itself. When it did, he told relatives they would not be seeing him again, prompting them to call the police.

As for his guns, Mr. Russo is scheduled to get them back in the spring, as mandated by Connecticut law.

“I don’t think they ever should have been taken out of my house,” he said. “I plan to get all my guns and ammo and knives back in April.”

The Russo case highlights a central, unresolved issue in the debate over balancing public safety and the Second Amendment right to bear arms: just how powerless law enforcement can be when it comes to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who are mentally ill.

Connecticut’s law giving the police broad leeway to seize and hold guns for up to a year is actually relatively strict. Most states simply adhere to the federal standard, banning gun possession only after someone is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility or designated as mentally ill or incompetent after a court proceeding or other formal legal process. Relatively few with mental health issues, even serious ones, reach this point.

As a result, the police often find themselves grappling with legal ambiguities when they encounter mentally unstable people with guns, unsure how far they can go in searching for and seizing firearms and then, in particular, how they should respond when the owners want them back.

“There is a big gap in the law,” said Jeffrey Furbee, the chief legal adviser to the Police Department in Columbus, Ohio. “There is no common-sense middle ground to protect the public.”

no one

PL, HIPAA laws preclude making the nature of healthcare diagnoses publicly known. There is sort of an unspoken extra secret layer of protection imposed on mental health diagnoses. Because of this, I am sure that background check databases do not talk to any healthcare databases, even if a centralized repository of healthcare diagnoses existed (and I am quite sure it doesn't for the aforementioned legal reasons and due to logistical issues;i.e. how would you get each HC provider that might have contact with a person to enter data into it?)

That said, law enforcement really blew this one. The nut's own family members revealed to LE that the he was mentally ill, decompensating quickly and dangerously and in need of intervention. The statements he made should have resulted in, minimally, a 72 mental health eval. hold ( a locked down institution). Additionally, given CA's gun registration laws, the cops should have checked to see if the nut owned any guns. With his history (revealed by the family) LE would have been within their rights to confiscate the guns. The illegal (by a mentally ill person)gun ownership would have been enough to make an arrest and reinforce the mental eval. until things could be sorted out. LE dropped the ball big time and they should be held responsible in civil court as well as administratively.

Laura Wilson

Being under therapy isn't grounds for disqualification. There must be something indicating violent intent or some kind of arrest record….there was a good article on this in the LA Times today. The moment of missed opportunity was when the sheriff's deputies were sent out to "check on him" but they did not have a warrant or any reason to go into his apartment and he was polite and reasonable during the interview. I believe it is true that even if someone is officially diagnosed as mentally ill (with a specific diagnosis), most states, including CA, cannot deny a gun purchase. There must be more…

scott s.

Is the use of "mental health" as a factor in allowing exercise of a right based on a theory of punishment, or as a predictor of future behavior? If the later, on what basis has the predictive power of "mental health" been established? As a hypothetical, what if a psychological/personality test could be administered that could predict future gun violence -- at what level of "false positives" would you consider such a test acceptable? Is there such as thing as "due process" for challenging such as test? If so, what form would this process take?



I think you are right that maintaining one set of rights has to mean that another set of rights would have to yield. If preserving the right to firearms means that some aspects of privacy (mental health record) would have to be compromised, then we can't have it both ways--unless we are willing to accept tragedies such as those that have taken place last few years.

The problem is that, for many, rights are absolute. They must have the cake and eat it too, or, have both the rights to guns and right to have no one question their competence to handle them. Yet, this mindset is increasingly becoming common (for example, the knee-jerk attitude that many people have towards "racial profiling" or "affirmative action.") I am actually somewhat sympathetic to the arguments raised by these folks: there is a serious and often unjustified stigma associated with mental illness, unjustified racial prejudice is often a serious problem, etc. But to insist that there is no difference between different types of folks and they should all be treated equally is silly (all the more so since so many of these people take the opposite stance when it comes to holding people accountable--that people who come from certain backgrounds might be held to a different standard, because of their background.) We should look for handling such issues in an appropriately nuanced, non-judgmental fashion that eliminates or, at least, substantially mitigate the ill effects, but when rights come into conflict, we have to find appropriate compromises that preserve the most, not bury our heads and insist that nothing can give way. If we don't, very soon, we shall have no rights left.


scott s

If this is seen as a conflict of two absolute rights, then you should expect that at some point there will be armed resistance on the part of gun owners to the inevitable demand of the anti-gun people for confiscation on the UK model. Why? That is quite clear. If crazy people cannot be banned from gun purchases on the basis of adequate information in the national gun sale data base, then the cry for confiscation, just below the surface now, will come to the surface. pl

no one

Laura, I completely disagree. I worked my way through graduate school on a team that did mental health interventions in the community. This was a number of years ago and it was in AZ; not CA, but I believe things work - or are supposed to work - pretty much the same.

We'd get a call that someone had made a report and official statement that someone they knew was doing something and/or making statements that indicated that they were a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness. We'd go to the location were the allegedly mentally ill person was thought to be. We'd greet the subject and initiate a polite conversation, assessing the whole time, and eventually leading up to the allegations of danger to self/others.

Of course, the subject, unless hopelessly floridly psychotic (and even then sometimes), would deny the allegations. But I'll tell you what, if the allegations were strong enough, that subject was going to end up locked in an inpatient ward for 72 hours minimum no matter what he said. And I'll also tell you this - 99% of the time that is exactly what the subject needed and the stay was extended, by the psychiatrists, up through a court ordered treatment. It was always when the subject came to understand that an inpatient stay was in the cards that the disorder undeniably emerged full strength. Shouting delusions, running for hidden guns, knives or other weapons, presenting incoherent manifestos.

Elliot Rodger wasn't just a guy in therapy. He had a long history - since age 8 - of serious mental health issues. Here is the federal form that must be filled out for all firearm purchases: http://www.atf.gov/files/forms/download/atf-f-4473-1.pdf answering "yes" to "a" - "l" disqualifies you from purchase. See line "f". Maybe his record didn't rise to the level of line "f". That would be a failure on the part of the parents and his therapists. If someone is severely and persistently mentally disturbed then they need to be adjudicated as such so that they are not able to legally engage in potentially dangerous activities such as driving automobiles, owning firearms, etc. That is a responsibility to society of the family and friends.

Still, based on my experience, I say LE really blew it. Just because someone is polite and meek in presentation doesn't mean you ignore statements about danger to self or others due to mental illness. The cops were not properly trained and their attitude was mis-focussed.

no one

kao_hsien_chih, I think you and Scott are over complicating this. There are some forms of mental illness that you don't recover from; like Autism, schizophrenia, sociopathology and that render your judgment sufficiently impaired, at least some of the time, that you do sacrifice certain rights because you are likely to infringe on the rights of others if left unstrained. You may be able to control your thoughts and behavior most of the time through use of pharmaceuticals, but you will still be mentally ill and there will be times when you either stop taking the medication or the medication stops working and you will decompensate into full blown symptomology. This is known. It is highly predictable.

A schizophrenic should not own a gun regardless of the 2A. Nor should someone with an autism spectrum disorder.

As far as I can see, all of the crazy mass shooters that have made the headlines have clearly fallen into the seriously, acutely and persistently mentally ill category. There is nothing arcane or foggy about knowing that these people should have never been within a hundred yards of a firearm. No slippery slope here.

BTW, in case anyone is wondering, I am a big proponent of the 2A and own guns.

no one

PL, I have been punched, kicked, bitten and stabbed by the mentally ill and I know how to fight and was at the top of my game back when I did my stint in that biz. Ironically, if the anti-gunners are going to use these crazy shooter incidents politically and side with the rights of the mentally ill over the 2A, then the logical response is for self defense minded pro-gun rights folks to dig their heels in deeper.

Look what happened here. The mental health community and law enforcement did nothing, despite ample warnings, to thwart a crazy little jerk's homicidal plans. Nothing. He killed three people with a knife and severely wounded several with an automobile. In his manifesto he wrote about hitting people with a hammer and slitting their throats. That nobody wants to put psychos like that away in institutions where they belong makes me want to own a firearm for self defense all the more. I know I'm not alone in that logic.


Only in America.... people arguing whether full blown psychotics with homicidal intentions should be allowed to own a gun or not.

Americans fought tenaciously for the Second Amendment but what about the important ones - the fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth? They are a dead letter. All lost, ironically, without a shot being fired.

John Minnerath

so, how do you figure. I see no concerted attacks on any of the amendments, but the 2nd.



Bernard is an Australian who lives in Canberra so he is probably some sort of government fellow. Australians meekly surrendered their firearms rights some time ago as did the British and Canadians. They are now wards of the state. pl



Feel free to join up to defend the Constitution of the United States, at least the "important" amendments.


Let's say hypothetically that the Nazis take over the government. As the government is administrating the tests, what counteracting forces would there be to keep them from confiscating guns on a political basis? Imagine Washington is Kiev, if you wish a concrete example.


Col. Lang,

With respect, Australians are not "wards of the State" nor did we "surrender our firearm rights" such suggestions are NRA propaganda. Taking the last point first, I own Four firearms and can buy as many more as I like if I wanted to and so can anybody else who can be bothered to attend a one hour firearm safety course conducted by the local police and buy and install a gun safe.

What I cannot do is buy assault weapons or automatics without good reason, my weapons are registered, and my gun locker may be checked for compliance with regulation.

As for the "Wards of the State" comment, British and Australian common law takes an extremely dim view of citizens taking the law into their own hands and has a far easier attitude to crimes against property than America. The "stand your ground" and "castle" doctrines are completely alien as is the concept of going armed for self protection and it has been this way as far as I can tell since 1800 AD.

I have recently literally driven the length and breadth of this country (Darwin, Perth and back to Melbourne) and the thought that I might somehow need a firearm for protection on such a journey through largely uninhabited territory never even crossed my mind, nor would it for anyone else.

To put that another way, we are not so fearful of our fellow citizens, nor our government, as Americans obviously are, and the idea that I need an assault weapon to hand "just in case" is just totally alien to Australian and possibly European thinking.

Having said all that, the firearms registry is a waste of time, as a policeman opined to me, because only law abiding people register weapons. The streets are awash with smuggled weapons but criminals generally only use them on each other. The only detectable benefit of registration I am aware of is a reduction in the use of fireamrs in domestic violence cases and I believe we now have more registered and unregistered firearms in the country then before the legislation.



Also with respect, we have been over this ground before. "What I cannot do is buy assault weapons or automatics without good reason?" From my point of view that says you have surrendered your right to own and bear arms to the state and for that reason you are to me as much wards of the state as are denizens of Connecticut, New York or Massachusetts. Do I trust the government(s) or my fellow citizens or non-citizens? Hell no! d this nut in California from buying something he could shoot with or a knife?

The Twisted Genius

Walrus and Colonel Lang,

I think it's just a matter of degree between American and Australian surrender of rights to own and bear arms. It's damned near impossible for an American to own an automatic weapon, a grenade launcher or any highly desirable "crew served weapon." Creating an explosive device will get you branded as a terrorist. Hell, what's wrong with blowing shit up in a field somewhere? I've had my fill of close up explosions, but why would I begrudge some good ole boys the pleasure of blowing up an old Buick?



Hey, man I am having fun with this. Has anyone seen the movie "emperor?" pl



I am just fooling with you. I know you diggers are as tough as dirt. I am much more worried about the USA, a country, that is attempting to make itself into an imitation of Byzantium in its poorer moments. pl

John Minnerath

You can own full auto weapons, grenade launchers, etc with a class 3 license and payment of some pretty stiff fees.
Explosives is a different deal, teea me off that I can't blow beaver dams flooding the place or shoot out log jams during high water which is even worse.


Mental health or un-health is not a static issue and no amount of regulation can cover the fact that a person's brain can be normal for a very long time, during which the person will have no record of any 'issues'. To try to detect potential issues and force the entire population to frequent, periodic, intrusive testing is simply not possible. Nevertheless, I predict a huge increase in number of psychologists and psychiatrists and nurse practitioners who will start 'practicing' after a two weeks course in CA...:)

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