Politics with Pavlinec: Guns, Mental Health and Policy

Any decision in life is based on a series of trade-offs – there are no “perfect” solutions. I am not interested in pushing a moral argument on guns, but rather a pragmatic one. Guns are here to stay whether we like it or not. We have almost 400 million in the U.S. according to some estimates. I propose we start with what we all can agree on. Mental health reform and increased security. These reforms will provide the best short and long term results. Research director Grant Duwe out of the Minnesota Department of Corrections found in a study thatat least 59% of the 185 public mass shootings that took place in the United States from 1900 through 2017” were committed by people with mental illnesses. This was also the case for the past two shootings: Pittsburgh and more recently Thousand Oaks.

What should we do with people who have serious mental issues? Involuntary commitment is seen as an extreme last resort option, mostly because it is extremely difficult to get approved legally. People fear, and for good reason, that we are taking away their freedom.

However, policy is always a series of trade-offs. People with serious mental health conditions such as intense PTSD, schizophrenia or other serious mental disabilities can easily be a danger to themselves and others. If there are signs of this danger, law enforcement must be allowed to act. Mentally ill young people such as the Parkland Shooter had nearly 20 “red flags” that were not addressed. A red flag law allows for police to take firearms for a specified period of time from someone who is believed to be a danger. The judicial system still plays a large role, and serves as a buffer so that police cannot misuse this power.

A red flag system recently established in Florida post-parkland has already shown real world results. If we utilize involuntary commitment mass shootings will decrease. The standard that individuals must be “imminently” dangerous for involuntary commitment is far too strict to be useful.

In terms of security, we should consider having current or retired police or military officers to tighten security for schools, places of worship and other high risk areas. These areas are easy targets, and that is the best short term solution we have. The Parkland school only had one guard for the entire school, and Pittsburgh church had no guard at all. Conversely, a well trained NRA instructor in Texas stopped a mass shooter from taking more lives in a church with his firearm. He lived next door to the church. Imagine if the church had on scene security.

Unfortunately, other recent gun control solutions are simply not feasible. A misconception I have heard on campus is that Trump repealed Obama-era mental health regulations for gun ownership. This makes you think that mentally unstable individuals are buying guns. This is not the case, the policy used records of people who needed help with their finances to exclude around 75,000 people. Younger people with depression who have a family member help with disability finances would be stripped of their 2nd amendment rights. The legislation was a step in the right direction, but it did not solve the right problem. The key to successful legislation is simplicity and specificity.

Additionally, some have called for extreme mandatory gun buybacks to stop gun violence. However, the people committing the shootings will not give up their guns. Those laws will only hurt lawful people, and it is blatantly unconstitutional. It is clear that security, together with mental health reform, are the best solutions we have to alleviate our gun problems as quickly as possible.

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Chris Pavlinec is a junior studying Political Science with a Concentration in Politics, Philosophy and Law. He hails from New Jersey and spends his time reading economics, playing guitar and prepping for law school.

'Politics with Pavlinec: Guns, Mental Health and Policy' have 2 comments

  1. November 27, 2018 @ 8:26 pm Luna

    The idea that outlawing guns is redundant because “bad people will keep their guns” shows the one-sided aspects of certain republican politics. this could be argued for anything. “we can’t outlaw drugs because dealers will still buy them and users will still use them.”; “we can’t outlaw murder because people will still murder each other.” see, it sounds stupid when you put it into a context like that. the fact is that gun control is a real issue that won’t be “fixed” under involuntarily committing people, not only because involuntary commitment is often traumatic for the mentally ill and can sometimes make people feel like they can’t seek help, but also because there will always be people who slip through the cracks and don’t show outwards signs of aggression towards others. sure, this would’ve helped someone like the shooter in Parkland, who showed a lot of outward signs, but for someone like the shooter in Santa Fe, he never showed any signs of wanting to hurt anyone prior to this. If you want to argue mental health reform as a gun reform issue, then the solution needs to include the de-stereotyping of those with mental illness, which your article goes directly against, and instead provide plenty of early-on prevention programs for those suffering from mental illnesses. not all mentally ill people are violent and saying that we should involuntary commit people because we don’t understand what they’re going through does nothing but further the journey they have to fight. the reason the threshold is so high to involuntarily commit people is because we’re taking away their RIGHTS and the threshold should be almost equally as high as other’s we revoke rights from, like those incarcerated. it’s unconstitutional and isn’t that what the gun-rights people are always fighting for?


    • November 27, 2018 @ 9:41 pm Chris Pavlinec

      Hey Luna, thanks for the comment!

      I’d like to go point by point, so we can refine our ideas together. There are certainly issues with my argument, but like I said I have not seen any practical legislative remedies for those problems. I am constricted by word count and time constraints, so I was not able to elaborate fully due in part to some ignorance and time.
      We have a plethora of weapons in the United States. I do not see law abiding citizens who have the right to self defense readily giving up their guns to the government (the same government in which these weapons are designed to protect them from) and that would cause way more problems than it would solve. Making guns illegal unilaterally would lower gun use, however, it would certainly do more harm than good. The lowered gun use would be from lack of sales, but the supply in the States already makes further legislation irrelevant for the short term and would only be useful in, say, half a century or more. Like I said, this legislation would hurt law-abiding citizens, be unconstitutional and not alleviate the problem in my estimation.
      Involuntary commitment is extremely serious and should not be administered lightly. However, there are certainly people that would be helped by it rather than hurt, what other options do they have? I am confused on what other solutions we should provide to them. Preventative care is excellent, and I advocate everyone to be open in their thoughts through therapy, its great for mental health and is underutilized. I did not stereotype the mentally ill nor did I say that “all mentally ill people are violent.” I am sorry it was interpreted that way. I will be more careful in the future.
      The constitutionality of involuntary commitment is sound, and I share your concern for those people who are committed. I was careful in adding that there would be plenty of protections for these people. There definitely would need to be specific and clear legislation that would address our concerns. I hope I addressed your questions, and thanks for reading my article.


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