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08 January 2016


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Here's Point 3 from the White House fact sheet:

>3. Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.

>The Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care.

>The Social Security Administration has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons.

>The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.

When you write that Obama missed an opportunity to "keep guns out of the hands of the truly mentally incompetent, while protecting veterans and others from mommyism," I'm wondering how that relates to Point 3 above. At face value, I'd have thought Point 3 was doing what you wanted. What do you think is wrong with that part of the proposal?



The present behavior of the Obama Administration demonstrates a willingness to deny veterans the possession of firearms through VA and Social Security orders. Unless there is specific assurance on that, why should we think that the federal government's additional resources will not be used in the same way? pl

no one

falcone, I work for one of the larger healthcare insurers in the country (soon to be the largest). I'm an actuary and I'm in the data. 25% of our covered lives are on some kind of psychiatric medicine - everything from mild anxiety and depression through antipsychotic agents - and then there are others who are not utilizing mental health benefits, yet are filling scripts for tranquilizing agents under the medical benefits.

Would all of these millions of individuals be excluded from gun ownership by Obama? Permanently?



Not all mentally ill individuals are recipients of VA or SS benefits. The DHS is going to allow what, insurance companies to decide who is mentally ill based on a DHS definition and thus deprive citizens of constitutional rights? Will this be administered more efficiently than TSA or Obamacare has been? What is the legal process for having errors removed?


I would guess the SSA point of contact would be people making a claim to go on disability support, whose reason was mental health causing an inability to work. Is that your sense, or is there some other SSA 'hook'?

There may well be a mismatch between the broad category of mental health issues creating an inability to work and the category of mental health issues that are statistically likely to lead to criminal use of firearms. How big a class of people are we talking about? Is there another way to cut the apple here - strictly defining the classes of disability referred by SSA?

Or what other, better methods are there for keeping guns out of the hands of the truly mentally incompetent, which you stated as something you would have liked to see attention focused on?

The Twisted Genius

Why should all felons be denied the right to firearms? I doubt most felons are prone to violence. I would also think most PTSD cases are more prone to depression than murder. Suicide may be a different matter. Preventing veteran suicide may smack of governmental mommyism, but the alternative is to say, "Screw you, soldier. You're on your own."


It seems reasonable to me to exclude people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with at least one severe manic episode (there are less severe types of bipolar disorder for which denial of constitutional rights are not justified in my opinion). I think those are the classic "insane person with a gun" James Holmes spree killer type scenarios that one might reasonably hope to avoid in some cases.

Depression obviously carries the risk of gun suicide, but depression is diagnosed extremely broadly in the US and I feel that restrictions would be overly inclusive and since the risk is mostly of self-harm, I don't think there is as strong of a philosophical case for restriction of constitutional rights.

Col. Lang and other raise an extremely important point regarding the relationship of PTSD diagnosis and proposed gun ownership restriction. If psychological reactions to combat are broadly going to be considered to be part of a recognized mental illness, and mental health status is proposed as a basis for restriction of constitutional rights, extremely overbroad restriction of veterans' constitutional rights is likely.

Maybe those two trends are born out of good intentions to increase psychological support for veterans and keep guns away from severely mentally ill people of the type who seem to commit most spree killings in the US, but the ironies of (1) broadly restricting gun ownership rights of a class of people who are on average much more highly trained in firearm use than the general population, and (2) defining the highest personal risk (combat service) one could take to defend the Constitution as a near-automatic basis for restricting constitutional rights are pretty horrible.

There is probably some very narrow regulation of firearm ownership rights based on mental health status that would be consistent with constitutional and privacy concerns such that it is acceptable to all sides, but there is such a severe lack of trust on the part of both parties that it is hard to see how anything can realistically get done.

As far as Obama goes, there are styles of negotiation that can be effective in low-trust situations, since he is not using any of them on this issue one must conclude that he prefers to set this up as a wedge issue for the next election than to accomplish anything.


I did a little more research. It looks like the VA has referred to the background check system 83,764 veterans (along with 42,636 surviving spouses and 2,000 or so minor children survivors) according to a bill filed by Senator Burr of Va. (In context, it looks weird to write Senator Burr of VA).

This is about 0.4% of the 19 million American veterans. I would be interested to see the age profile of these 83,764, compared to the age profile of overall veteran population.

There is a widely publicized case of a young veteran in Virginia. I won't name him. He is too young to be receiving pension benefits, so he must be receiving disability payments. All references to the case suggest trauma without mentioning physical disability, so it seems likely he is on disability because of mental trauma significant enough to keep him from holding a job. Brain injury is mentioned in most accounts - including those seeming unsympathetic to his gun rights, but also those seeming sympathetic.

Would I adjudicate him unfit to bear a weapon? I don't know. I do think it's fair to ask how many are in a situation similar to his, and what exactly such situations look like. And how many are people with significant cognitive impairments via Alzheimer's and other major dementia, and confined to nursing homes (in which their right to possess a gun is probably already gone.)

Tim B.

Crime has been going down ever since lead was removed from gasoline. I know it sounds "crazy" but everywhere lead had been removed from gasoline crime rates begin to drop as the children who were not exposed to leaded gas make up a larger and larger percentage of the population. There is about a 20 year lag. Just Google it.


The answer to your question is pretty clearly no. The only class they've talked about including is a class that has been judged mentally incompetent.

Incompetency to manage their financial affairs. Yes, a distinction can be made between that competency and other types of mental competency. I'd submit that the overlap is quite substantial. But the answer to your question still seems a pretty resounding no.


For the record, I don't see anything suggesting a policy of putting people with PTSD determination on the excluded list. I could be wrong.


That study dropped the data from New York, California and DC in order to make the correlations seem stronger. Those three jurisdictions were responsible for about 30% of murders at the start of the time period looked at.

Adding those states back in, lead is still a statistically significant factor, but only as a small component of the change.

Instead of just googling, you can read the study here:

Babak Makkinejad


I would respectfully suggest that it makes eminent sense in the United States, with her pervasive drug-culture ("I can hold my drug!"), that the sale of any kind of firearms be restricted to those who pass a drug screening test over many months.

I would also suggest that it would be a good idea to have gun owners be tested periodically for drug usage and their arms confiscated if they fail it.

One can approach this in an empirical manner by sex and age; e.g. hormone-crazed young men (18-28) who are also using drugs have no business owning firearms, and build on that.

Liberty of drug usage destroys other Freedoms.

no one

falcone, a "resounding no"? I'm not convinced. The class of people you think this would be limited to are already barred from gun ownership. There's probably a need to tighten up the database system, but it is currently suppose to flag these people.

I wouldn't be surprised if Obama's proposal is nothing more than a noxious release from a political gas bag. However, I'm curious how you arrived at your conclusion. What is it based on?

Babak Makkinejad

I think the natural state of mankind is borderline depression - out of sheer boredom in many cases.

Thank God then for the entertainers - the singers and the musicians, the writers, the novelists, the move-makers, the jugglers, the sportsmen, the conjurers....


President Obama got very Touchy with Anderson Cooper CNN When Obama kept saying Hes getting resistence from Americans who believe Obamas Gun Control Executive Actions are part of a Conspiracy Theory..Obama kept arguing that point With Cooper..He also asked Cooper when else could He.. Obama have started trying to do something about it...How about right after He got elected and The Democrats controlled Congress...The 500 Million Now for "Health Care/Mental Health is too little too late..Thats at the Core of Most Gun Violence and Mass Killings at Schools/Universitys and even with The Young Man with Mental Problems who Shot Gabay Gifford and others...That shooter Jarred Loughner...was a Typical Young Loner..Anti Social..who had attracted attention in College for his Behaviour and Comments...He as a Drug User..Who listened to Heavy Metal Music Day and Night as did almost every other Shooter From Kip Kinkle in Oregon to James Holmes..in Colorado..Jarred Loughner was Brain Washed by the Music He listened to to Become an Anarchist Extremist who hted the American Government...His Favorite Band was Called "FUCK THE FLAG" He went to Heavy Metal Live Concerts in Phoenix..The last One He attened was By a European Band Who Decorated their Stage with RED WHITE and BLACK Banners and Sang about Over throwing the System and Having the Guts to Do Violent Acts...President Obama did not address any of the Focus on Most Shooters being Young,Drug Users listening To Anti Social Gang Banger Music while Stoned Out of Their Minds..When your are Stoned out of Your Mind and Programmed to Commit Violence and Be Anti Social.. That will Happen..So who is President Obama going after...Law Abiding Citizens..and Veterans...The Shooting today of a Police Officer by a shooter with a stolen Gun motivated by Ideology is an Example..Most Crimes are HATE Motivated..

The Twisted Genius


Wow, your first observation is a real downer. I'm wondering if you have a "Life sucks and then you die." needlepoint hanging in your living room. I glad you ended on such a hopeful note. I'd add nature in all its wonder to your list of entertainment.

Will Reks


I agree that felons should not necessarily be denied the right to own firearms. Same with losing the right to vote as is the law in some states.


Tim B.,

That drop in crime also corresponds to the increase of trial, conviction and incarceration of criminals. I believe the President and the democratic party have said plenty of just how wrong it is to have so many in prison....


As a sometime gun owner and long-ago hunter, I lament this current effort. The problem with guns is that they are out of Pandora's Box. I believe anyone determined to acquire one can get one whether legally or illegally and for whatever motives. I acquired four when I was 15, those owned by my maternal uncle. One was a 0.22 cal. single shot target rifle, one a 0.410 single shot shotgun, one an M-1 Carbine, and the fourth a 0.45 cold pistol--the last two his military arms. He died, according to family lore from an accident in cleaning a weapon in North Africa during WWII. I never investigated the details of that. My father relented when I asked to receive these, since he hated guns, was a veteran of the Pacific campaign in the US Army Air Corps as a tail gunner and waist gunner on bombers. I wanted these guns to hunt and only the shotgun fit that description. The pistol was turned over to the local Army Reserve unit. I became proficient with the 0.22, qualified for a small-game license after a hunter-safety course taught by the NRA and took up hunting for a few outings looking for hares and grouse. These were abundant in our local area, but they managed to avoid my infrequent shots. I gave up on hunting after several outings with my young friends of 15-16 when one emerged from the car with his father's 10 gauge shotgun which immediately discharged leaving a large hole in the dirt road. He had not learned the lessons of hunter safety, I gathered.

Several years later, I bought a 9mm Walther PPK when I lived in Chicago. My ownership was legal but was not a carry permit. I fired a number of rounds to become proficient at hitting targets. I kept this at home, broken down in one high cabinet with the ammunition separate--there were no issues of gun safes in those days. I sold this lovely piece when I returned home to find my wife with the gun in the bedroom cursing me for denying her the option of suicide. My daughter had fled to a neighbor's apartment downstairs. Whether this was theatrical, I will never know. I took the pistol to where I worked and locked it in a separate part of the safe and sold it to the original place I purchased it. Even with inflation, I was ahead of the game.

My long anecdotal bit is to suggest that all these campaigns to reduce the number of guns in the wrong hands are misguided. Many deaths that I recall are due to illegal weapons, many legal weapons end up in the hands of folks who do not exercise gun-safety thereby allowing others to get them, some end up stolen, and I see no remedy for these causes in any changes in legislation.

A. Pols

Shutting down the mental hospitals and substituting "community based treatment" was an enormous fraud. That and a misguided obsession with "confidentiality" have enabled the country to be flooded with schizophrenic and bipolar people who can legally buy firearms in case after case, notwithstanding legal prohibitions on sale to mentally ill persons. How can background checks reveal history of mental illness if they are screened from knowing such history?



I have never understood how anyone kills himself "cleaning a gun" since the first thing you do in that is unload the gun and check the bore. pl

Babak Makkinejad


I suppose you meant "nature in all its bloody teeth and claws".

Master Slacker

Back in the day that would have been the euphemism for suicide used by the XO so his widow would be able to receive benefits.

Mark Logan

IMo he is hoping to gin up support, specifically support on a par with the kind the NRA gets. He feels the only reason the NRA is so powerful is because they have enough people who will be one-issue voters and the anti-gun people clearly aren't. At one point he mentioned he is willing to become a one-issue voter the other way.

He flubbed it though. When asked directly what he hopes to accomplish he moused out with a long wandering explanation. A pro would have anticipated the question and had a well crafted sound bite ready to go. It's a typical mistake for him. Bit of a stretch perhaps but IMO it's the typical mistake that all but defines his Presidency.

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