In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy and the movie theatre massacre in Colorado, accounts of mentally ill perpetrators are offered as partial explanations as to how these horrific events came to pass. The public outcry for revised gun control measures is understandable and well placed. I don’t disagree. Yet, the predictability of which firearm aficionados may also harbor a latent predisposition toward violence may be an unreasonable task for agencies tasked with licensing weapon worthy citizens, particularly when it comes to assessing someone with a history of mental illness. The paradox of a system which relies on questions about a personal history of psychiatric treatment does not mean an individual has not needed care. If behavioral health services are not accessible or available, there would not be any record of such intervention. This does not mean that such intervention has not been suggested, desired, or otherwise indicated. That said, a history of mental health treatment ought to not automatically suggest the applicant should be denied a right offered other citizens. Focusing funding and effort on firearm marketplace controls may override the much needed attention on community mental health care which are lacking across the nation. Ensuring our nation also has accessible, high quality behavioral health treatment programs will have benefits which extend far beyond the gun control debates. Though we may never be able to fully disentangle the issues of gun rights and mental illness, perhaps we can maximize this opportunity to press our leaders into putting some real muscle, in the form of dollars, behind mental health treatment programs.
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