The PJ Tatler

Don't Let Agenda-Driven Bureaucrats Set Policy on Guns and Mental Health

John Feinblatt, president and gun-grabbing propagandist extraordinaire for Everytown for Gun Safety, has published an adorable little fable in the The Hill about Senator Cornyn’s (R-TX) bill known as the “Mental Health and Safe Communities Act.” The op-ed is titled “Don’t let the NRA set policy on guns and mental health.”

Mr. Feinblatt opens with the question: “Do we really want to make it easier for people with dangerous mental illness to get guns?” He goes on to claim that the Cornyn bill “backed by the NRA” will do just that. (The bill is also backed by American Jail Association, Council of State Governments, Treatment Advocacy Center, National Association of Social Workers, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Police Organizations,  and American Correctional Association. )


What Cornyn’s bill does, among other things,  is clarify certain issues of mental illness with regard to the NICS system, the criminal justice system and law enforcement. One important feature of the bill is to clarify the way in which the term “adjudicated as mentally defective” is used.  Right now, it’s ambiguous for the purposes of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Take, for example, the veterans who are targeted by the most recent gungrabbing efforts of the administration. The administration now wants to claim that any veteran who has a “representative payee” handle their finances is “mentally defective” and shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a firearm. These folks would be added to the NICS system and denied their Second Amendment right without any due process.

Feinblatt writes, “And if your loved one is a veteran with dangerous mental illness? Right now, he can be prohibited from buying and possessing guns, after V.A. proceedings in which he has a right to a hearing. The NRA’s bill changes current law – and allows tens of thousands of veterans with mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder to get guns.”

No it does not.

Here is the relevant part of the bill, curiously omitted by Mr. Feinblatt:

the term ‘has been adjudicated mentally incompetent or has been committed to a psychiatric hospital’, with respect to a person—
“(i) means the person is the subject of an order or finding by a judicial officer, court, board, commission, or other adjudicative body—
“(I) that was issued after—
“(aa) a hearing—
“(AA) of which the person received actual notice; and
“(BB) at which the person had an opportunity to participate with counsel; or
“(bb) the person knowingly and intelligently waived the opportunity for a hearing—
“(AA) of which the person received actual notice; and
“(BB) at which the person would have had an opportunity to participate with counsel; and
“(II) that found that the person, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, mental impairment, mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease—
“(aa) was a danger to himself or herself or to others;
“(bb) was guilty but mentally ill in a criminal case, in a jurisdiction that provides for such a verdict;
“(cc) was not guilty in a criminal case by reason of insanity or mental disease or defect;
“(dd) was incompetent to stand trial in a criminal case;
“(ee) was not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility under section 850a of title 10 (article 50a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice);
“(ff) required involuntary inpatient treatment by a psychiatric hospital for any reason, including substance abuse; or
“(gg) required involuntary outpatient treatment by a psychiatric hospital based on a finding that the person is a danger to himself or herself or to others; and
“(ii) does not include—
“(I) an admission to a psychiatric hospital for observation; or
“(II) a voluntary admission to a psychiatric hospital.
“(B) In this paragraph, the term ‘order or finding’ does not include—
“(i) an order or finding that has expired or has been set aside or expunged;
“(ii) an order or finding that is no longer applicable because a judicial officer, court, board, commission, or other adjudicative body has found that the person who is the subject of the order or finding—
“(I) does not present a danger to himself or herself or to others;
“(II) has been restored to sanity or cured of mental disease or defect;
“(III) has been restored to competency; or
“(IV) no longer requires involuntary inpatient or outpatient treatment by a psychiatric hospital; or
“(iii) an order or finding with respect to which the person who is subject to the order or finding has been granted relief from disabilities under section 925(c), under a program described in section 101(c)(2)(A) or 105 of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (18 U.S.C. 922 note), or under any other State-authorized relief from disabilities program of the State in which the original commitment or adjudication occurred.

So what we see above is that the bill removes the VA as an arbiter (or any government agency) and places the process in the adversarial court system.  Before you start having your rights stripped away by some agenda-driven bureaucrat, you get to have your day in court. That this is so controversial is beyond me.

Said Catherine Mortensen, NRA spokesperson,”The gun banners at Everytown aren’t interested in distinguishing people who are dangerous and people who merely need assistance with things like balancing their checkbooks or cashing their Social Security checks. They simply want to take away guns by any means possible. Sen. Cornyn’s bill focuses on both public safety and due process, which is why it is enjoying broad support, including the support of the NRA.”

Cornyn spokesperson Drew Brandewie told the Washington Free Beacon“Basically, right now some agencies like the V.A. make their own determination of mental illness and bypass the court process. This bill codifies into law that individuals must get their day in court they’re entitled to, and no agency or state can make their own determination without that. The current statute is ambiguous, so our bill clarifies by saying individuals must have these things (notice, a judicial hearing, and a determination from a judge) before any government or federal agency can try to include them in NCIS. This bill actually strengthens Second Amendment rights in this way.”

Feinblatt also wants you to believe that the Cornyn bill will allow people to be discharged from a mental hospital and take an Uber over to the local Gun Mart and buy a weapons cache. “But as far as the NRA is concerned, your loved one can leave the hospital and buy a gun on his way home. Once he leaves the hospital, the FBI would have to remove his name and record from the background check system.”

Not so. Those who are involuntarily committed to a mental institution are prohibited from purchasing a gun according to state and federal law. Individuals would only be able to get their name removed from the Background Check System after they are no longer adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others, or have completed a relief from disabilities process to restore their rights.

The Cornyn bill is a good bill. Don’t let agenda-driven bureaucrats set policy on guns and mental health. The government should serve to maximize freedom for its citizens, not work to arbitrarily restrict it.