Are We “Fooling Ourselves” By Passing New Laws on Mental Illness and Guns?


The new New York state gun law’s expansive language on keeping gun ownership from people with mental illness worries mental health advocates, says Stateline. Critics say the requirement that mental health professionals tell local officials if they believe a patient is likely to hurt himself or herself or someone else may further stigmatize the mentally ill, weaken doctor-patient confidentiality, and undermine the judgment of mental health providers. “We want people to seek help when they need it,” said Ron Honberg of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “The last thing we want to do is pass a law that ensures that someone who voluntarily seeks help is going to be put on a registry maintained by the FBI and state police.” “To the extent that we believe we are making ourselves vastly safer, I think we are fooling ourselves,” said Paul Appelbaum of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. “The general concern that I have is that in the wake of horrific events like Virginia Tech and Newtown there's been a concerted effort by the NRA to distract attention from questions of the availability of guns and particularly those with high capacity, and instead to point the finger at the mentally ill because it's always easier to do that.”

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