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Governmental Persecution of Former Mental Patients

What’s wrong with entering the names of people who have been in the mental health system into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database, and barring them from gun purchases?

1. The law behind this action deprives US citizens who have committed no crime of their constitutional second amendment right to bear arms. In doing so, it is an UNCONSTITUTIONAL and, therefore, ILLEGAL law.

2. The act of depriving this group of their second amendment rights is an example of PREJUDICE directed people who have been on the receiving end of the mental health system. People who have received mental health treatment are being made the SCAPEGOATS for gun violence in this nation, and gun violence for which they are absolutely in no way, shape, or form responsible; they are being made to pay for gun violence of which they are completely INNOCENT.

3. Statistics show people who have received treatment for psychiatric labels to be more often the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. They are, as a rule, peaceful, law abiding, and NONVIOLENT citizens. As they are more often the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators, and as it is merely a few frustrated and failed individuals for whom they are taking the rap. This rap is a matter of extreme prejudice, and it is entirely unjustified.

4. Placing the names of former mental patients on, of all things, a criminal background check list, is a blatant example of CRIMINALIZING people who have had mental health treatment. As I pointed out, most of them have broken no laws, and they are, therefore, not criminals. Not being criminals, there is no reason to place them on such a list.

5. When black people are harassed at traffic stops on account of their skin color by law enforcement, we call this harassment racial profiling. Use of the names and information entered into this database are going to be used, as that is its purpose, for doing psychiatric or MENTAL HEALTH PROFILING, that is, targeting former mental patients for harassment by law enforcement. This is not the way we should be treating our fellow citizens, neighbors, and human beings.

6. Through the names and information entered into this database police officers and federal agents are going to have access to people’s mental health treatment records. This access amounts to a BREACH OF CONFIDENTIALITY between patient and therapist at a massive level. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was designed to guard people’s confidential relationships for health reasons, but the law pertains to the mental health system and civil actions, and it can be entirely superseded by the criminal justice system. The result of these breaches ultimately usually serves neither health nor justice.

We’ve got better things to do with our time and energy than to CONDEMN people UNTO PERPETUITY for the mental health treatment they have received. This NICS database only represents one more way of furthering the misfortunes of people who have experienced the mental health system  first hand as patients. It constitutes one more INJURY directed against this group of people, and as such, it cannot be said to be in the interests of mental health and recovery to maintain it.

Let me reiterate for the sake of those of you who may not have been paying attention. The law behind the NICS database is unconstitutional. It is illegal. Former mental patients are being made the scapegoats for violence in this country. Entering information on former mental patients onto a criminal background check database is a form of criminalization. This list is going to be used for mental health profiling, that is, police harassment. It is also going to be used to disarm innocent people who are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violent crime. It is a massive government intrusion and an invasion of privacy. It serves neither the interests of social justice nor of mental health.

Okay then. Why the bad law? Law makers, confronted with a monumental tragedy in the form of a number of copy cat crimes, have to give the impression that they are doing something to relieve the situation. Unfortunately, it is more important for them to do something about the issue than it is for them to do something about the issue that is effective or that makes sense. They have their electorate to think about. If they do nothing, they are going to be savaged in the media and by the public. If they have no guilty parties in custody, then someone is going to have to take the heat. In this case, that someone is the set of people who have done time in mental institutions.