Gun Control — December 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm

NRA fights FOR national mental illness registry after fighting AGAINST gun registry for years


Hypocrisy is rarely so clearly on display

Last week at his press conference (where, by the way, he didn’t take a single question), National Gun Fetishists Association (NRA) Executive Vice Chair Wayne LaPierre castigated the federal government for its inaction on forming a national registry for the mentally ill.

It’s an appalling demostration of hypocrisy given that what he didn’t mention is that his group has been actively fighting AGAINST a similar registry of gun registrations in this country.

Here’s what he said at the presser:

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with wall-to-wall attention and a sense of identity that they crave, while provoking others to try to make their mark.

A dozen more killers, a hundred more? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?

He went farther on Meet the Press with David Gregory this past Sunday:

We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed. We have no national database of these lunatics. … 23 states are still putting only a small number of records into the system and a lot of states are putting none. So when they go through the National Instant Check System and they go to try to screen out one of those lunatics, the records are not even in the system. […]

We have backed the National Instant Check system, we have backed putting anyone adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system.

So, how do they feel about a national registry for gun owners? Well, no no no no no. THAT is a bridge too far. In fact, LaPierre said so just four sentences after the last comment above. Check it out:

We have backed the National Instant Check system, we have backed putting anyone adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system. Now I know where you’re going with this. They come up with this whole, “oh, it’s a gun show loophole.” There’s not a gun show loophole. It’s illegal for felons to do anything like that, to buy guns. What the anti-Second Amendment movement wants to do is put every gun sale in the country under the thumb of the federal government. Congress debated this at length. They said if you’re a — a hobbyist or collector, if someone in West Virginia, a hunter, wants to sell a gun to another hunter, they ought to be able to do it without being under the thumb of the federal government.

So, if you’re mentally ill, you need to be on a national registry. Let’s call it The Scarlet L registry for “Lunatics” to use LaPierre’s derogatory term. But if you buy a gun, putting your name on a registry is putting you “under the thumb of the federal government”.

The fact is, the NRA has been fighting a national gun registration registry for years.

[U]nder current laws the bureau is prohibited from creating a federal registry of gun transactions. So while detectives on television tap a serial number into a computer and instantly identify the buyer of a firearm, the reality could not be more different.

When law enforcement officers recover a gun and serial number, workers at the bureau’s National Tracing Center here — a windowless warehouse-style building on a narrow road outside town — begin making their way through a series of phone calls, asking first the manufacturer, then the wholesaler and finally the dealer to search their files to identify the buyer of the firearm.

About a third of the time, the process involves digging through records sent in by companies that have closed, in many cases searching by hand through cardboard boxes filled with computer printouts, hand-scrawled index cards or even water-stained sheets of paper.

Why does the NRA fight this registry? Because they claim it is an abridgment of the Second Amendment. Freedom don’tchya know?

That’s not all:

The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, for example, prohibits A.T.F. agents from making more than one unannounced inspection per year of licensed gun dealers. The law also reduced the falsification of records by dealers to a misdemeanor and put in place vague language defining what it meant to “engage in business” without a dealer’s license.

Both provisions, said William J. Vizzard, an emeritus professor of criminal justice at California State University, Sacramento, and a former A.T.F. special agent, made it more difficult for the bureau to go after gun sellers who broke the law.

The so-called Tiahrt amendments — named for Todd Tiahrt, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, and first attached as riders to appropriations bills in 2003 and 2004 — limited the A.T.F.’s ability to share tracing information on firearms linked to crimes with local and state law enforcement agencies and with the public. Those restrictions have been loosened in subsequent versions of the amendments. But under the most recent Tiahrt amendment, adopted in 2010, the A.T.F. still cannot release anything but aggregate data to the public. The amendment still prohibits the bureau from using tracing data in some legal proceedings to suspend or revoke a dealer’s license, and it requires that records of background checks of gun buyers be destroyed within 24 hours of approval. Advocates of tighter regulation say this makes it harder to identify dealers who falsify records or buyers who make “straw” purchases for others.

The NRA is nothing more than a lobbying group for the minority of Americans that worship and idolize guns. Any, ANY restrictions on gun ownership, even sensible laws like banning assault weapons, creating a national registry of gun owners to help track guns in our society, and outlawing high capacity magazines of bullets are seen as reducing their freedom. Meanwhile, the rest of us pay the price for their gun fetish as the number of multiple death shootings has escalated since the overturning of the assault weapons ban.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a statement slamming LaPierre’s hypocritical position on a national mental illness registry:

The National Rifle Association (NRA) response to last week’s tragedy in Newtown Connecticut — in which 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School were killed — is outrageous and wrong.

The NRA has called for putting more guns in schools and creating a bigger list of people treated for mental illness — which presumably includes civic leaders, teachers who take prescriptions for anxiety or depression, police, fire fighters and veterans returning home from Afghanistan.

The NRA posed the question ‘How many more copycats are waiting…A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?’

One in four American adults experience a mental health problem in any given year, yet the U.S. Surgeon General determined over a decade ago that ‘the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small.’

Law already exists requiring states to report the names of people ‘adjudicated as mentally defective’ to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS). It has never been properly implemented because of confusion surrounding the highly stigmatizing term “mentally defective” and the uncertain meaning of ‘adjudicated.’

After the Virginia Tech tragedy in 2007, NAMI recommended that Congress clean up existing law by adopting standards consistent with modern medical knowledge and clear legal procedures. We continue to support that approach.

When violence occurs, it is usually because something has gone terribly wrong in the mental health care system.

We must address the fact that less than a third of Americans who have a diagnosable mental illness are able to get treatment. The NRA’s proposal to create a bigger “active” national database will only discourage people reaching out for help. Stigma will be imposed. Stigma will be internalized. Stigma will turn into prejudice and discrimination.

NAMI condemns the NRA position. We hope the NRA instead will join others in seeking positive, workable, appropriate solutions. NAMI stands ready to work with the President, Congress and states to accomplish that end.

Oh, and one more thing: This lack of action that LaPierre says plays such a big role in the number of violent and lethal shootings in our country? This national registry that he thinks would make such a big difference?

38 states already have it. How’s that working out, Wayne?

[Photo credit: Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]