Though the proposed Toomey-Manchin gun control legislation states that it hopes to “protect Second Amendment rights” while it “prevents individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm” from doing so, the bill could actually deter mentally ill people from seeking necessary treatment. It reportedly will allow a doctor to add a patient to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) without informing the patient that he or she has done so.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) released the text of the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act he is sponsoring with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Thursday evening. The text states that a purpose of the bill is:
To ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale, and for other purposes.
SEC. 117 of the Toomey-Manchin proposal states the legislation “clarifies that submission of mental health records into the NICS system is not prohibited by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The proposed legislation will also establish a National Commission on Mass Violence whose purpose will be:
…to study the availability and nature of firearms, including the means of acquiring firearms, issues relating to mental health, and all the positive and negative impacts of the availability and nature of firearms on incidents of mass violence or in preventing mass violence.
The Commission’s scope of study will include the role of schools, including level of involvement of teachers and school administrators in the lives of their students, and the availability of mental health and other resources; the roles of families and the availability of mental health and other resources; the effectiveness and use of the mental health system as well as the effects of treatments and therapies, and the ability of mental health professionals to notify law enforcement when a patient is a danger to himself or others.
At the same time, back in January, HHS also indicated that ObamaCare will expect doctors and other health care providers to ask patients about whether they have guns in their homes.
According to Erik Erikson of RedState, the senators’ legislation raises several realistic concerns, related to mental health treatment.
First- and one of the gravest concerns for mental health professionals- is that such legislation could actually dissuade mentally ill people from seeking help. The fact that, according to Erikson’s source, a doctor could add a patient’s name to a federal database of mentally ill individuals, without the knowledge of the patient, could prevent him or her from seeking necessary treatment.
Second, mistaken submissions by doctors, or their office staff workers, to the federal database would require patients to spend time and resources, possibly even attorney fees, to get their names removed. However, if a person is unaware that his or her name has been submitted, it is quite possible he or she would not know about it until a state trooper shows up to collect previously purchased firearms.
A recent story illustrates this point. A woman who was voluntarily hospitalized for mental illness in California told TheBlaze that a gun she had purchased for her husband years ago, and two others registered to her husband, were seized. A spokesman for the California Attorney General’s office told Bloomberg News, “The prohibited person can’t have access to a firearm” regardless of who the registered owner is.
Erikson also points out the very real potential for activist mental health providers to be “overly aggressive” in adding patients to the database. He suggests that, give it “five years in liberal areas and people who believe in the physical resurrection of Christ will probably get automatic entry onto the list.”
That day may be coming sooner than Erikson thinks. The fifth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), due to be released next month, is arriving at the same time that the Second Amendment is under attack and ObamaCare is about to go into full effect.
The significance of the intersection of the release of the DSM-V and the mental illness component of legislation, such as the Toomey-Manchin plan, is best summarized by Dr. Allen Frances, who actually chaired the current version of DSM.
Dr. Frances writes:
In terms of content…the many suggestions for DSM V would dramatically raise the rates of mental disorder. These come in two forms:
1. New diagnoses that would be extremely common in the general population…
2. Lowered diagnostic thresholds for many of the existing disorders.
Dr. Frances continues:
DSM V would create tens of millions of newly misidentified false positive “patients,” thus greatly exacerbating the problems caused already by an overly inclusive DSM IV… There would be massive overtreatment with medications that are unnecessary, expensive, and often quite harmful. DSM V appears to be promoting what we have most feared–the inclusion of many normal variants under the rubric of mental illness, with the result that the core concept of “mental disorder” is greatly undermined..”
If the prospect of “millions of newly misidentified false positive patients,” whose names could possibly be added to a federal database is not frightening enough, consider how it will affect children, and a parent’s decision to refer a child for mental health treatment.
For example, the Wall St. Journal recently reported that almost 10% of all children have now been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The report suggests potential reasons for the surge in ADHD diagnoses:
Doctors now screen more heavily for the disorder. Societal expectations around children’s behavior have changed, and kindergarten has a more academic focus than it did in prior generations, making issues like hyperactivity appear more out of the norm.
The names of many of these children, and those who have been diagnosed to receive special services in public schools, could likely be added to the federal database, and, if their names are added, the firearms of all their parents could potentially be confiscated.
With more people receiving mental health disorder diagnoses in the near future, it seems the Toomey-Manchin proposal, and others like it, could guarantee that, before long, it will be illegal for many individuals to own firearms. It may also guarantee that the people we want most to seek mental health treatment will be frightened away.