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Monday, April 23, 2007

Politicians exploiting Virginia Tech in the name of mental illness

"President Bush says he has directed federal officials to conduct a national inquiry into how to prevent violence by dangerously unstable people."

He can start with those who want the war in Iraq because as Einstein put it: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

For me, the red flags started going up yesterday when Senator Charles Schumer from New York said that he wanted mental health workers to report to the federal government on who is "mentally ill" for the express purpose of the feds denying them the right to own a gun.

For one thing, this is a knee-jerk reaction. For another, the existing gun laws are adequate already... maybe too adequate. For yet another, no matter how much law gets passed, eventually someone is going to break it and cause something like the incident at Virginia Tech to happen. Sorry to say this, but there can be no guarantees in life and you certainly can't expect... and shouldn't even want... the government to try to protect you from everything.

But most of all: should we really want politicians to be the ones defining what "mental illness" is? Seung-Hui Cho certainly had problems that should have discouraged him from having ready access to firearms. But I've come to know many people who although they have to take anti-depressants and other medication to function day to day, they are as healthy and fit as you or me (okay, I'll admit that some have questioned my own soundness especially after my first school board campaign commercial, but I digress...). A lot of these people show much more sense and compassion than many who have never had to take medications for depression and other conditions. Are they going to be denied a permit to have a gun for self-defense because just on the basis of being prescribed these drugs, the government declares them "mentally unfit"?

And if so, then where will it stop? Where can it stop? Because if government has the power to deny a basic right because it has the authority to declare someone a "mental invalid", then there is nothing to keep it from defining that condition in any way that it sees fit. Would political dissent be grounds for branding someone mentally unstable? Hell, there are apparent cases where dissenters have been denied the right to travel in this country: why wouldn't the federal government stop there and insist that they not be allowed the means of self-defense, either, because it declares these people's "behavior" to be symptomatic of mental illness?

What Bush and Schumer and too many other politicians are suggesting in the wake of the Virginia Tech slayings, is a potential start on the road to the gulags. Remember how back in the day in America we heard about how dissidents were declared "mentally ill" and sent off to Siberia for "treatment" for the next forty years? Apart from physical relocation (for now), how was that different from what a lot of politicians here are wanting?

Think that federal government wouldn't ever practice such gross abuse? Remember: President Bush wants mandatory mental health screening of every schoolchild in America... to say nothing of his wanting to medicate them against the wishes of the children's parents and physicians. This was apparently being promoted at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry: the same industry that talked Governor Rick Perry into mandating an uncertain cancer vaccine on every girl in Texas. That came soon after after the vaccine's manufacturer Merck gave Perry a substantial political contribution. If they can sell out principles for money, they can sell them out for power, too.

It's like this: if the government can declare huge portions of the population "mentally unfit" to own firearms, then there is nothing preventing the government from defining "mental illness" in whatever way it believes necessary. Anyone and everyone can be deemed mentally "unsound" for the most ridiculous of reasons. Inevitably, a person will have to produce official documentation showing that he or she is sane, instead of it being determined that they are unhealthy based on prior behavior. So it will be that only the "super sane" will be authorized to own firearms by the government. Anyone want to take a guess at how many of those there will be?

Well, it won't be very many. And they will be far too few in numbers to be an adequate bulwark against the government deciding that it needs even more power.

Tell me again how this doesn't sound like we're headed to Siberia, comrade.