We must find a way to make it more difficult for the non-adjudicated mentally ill to come into possession of weapons. This is crucially important, but very difficult, because it would require the cooperation of the medical community — of psychiatrists, therapists, school counselors and the like — and the privacy issues (among other issues) are enormous. But: It has to be made more difficult for sociopaths, psychopaths and the otherwise violently mentally-ill (who, in total, make up a small portion of the mentally ill population) to buy weapons.
One can immediately see the problems. There are privacy issues to consider, as well as trying to define “mentally ill.” John Grohol explains:
I don’t believe Obama was talking about anyone who’s ever had a mental disorder diagnosis — that would include over 25 percent of the population.
I think he meant to say those who fall under the Gun Control Act of 1968 — specifically people who have been involuntarily committed, found by a court to be incompetent or dangerous, or those who’ve already committed a crime but were found not guilty by reason of insanity.
According to Gostin & Record (2011), recent Supreme Court rulings generally push states to “regulate dangerous persons rather than dangerous firearms” but that existing gun restrictions pertaining to individuals with mental illnesses are ineffective.
They are ineffective because the states are not cooperating in sending the names of those who should be denied the opportunity to purchase firearms under the 1968 statute:
A federal database with the names of mentally ill people barred from buying guns still lacks millions of records it needs to be effective. A new report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns points to gaps in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
The problem is that 14 years after NICS was put in place, states still aren’t submitting all the required mental health records.
“I think that those states are doing a disservice to their citizens,” says Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was injured in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. “They’re not doing what they can to protect public safety and to keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.”