- - Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Last week a coordinated raid on 79 individuals and locations in Santa Barbara, Calif., netted 83 illegal firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and 10 arrests. Using a California law prohibiting the “mentally ill” from owing guns, these type of law-enforcement “sweeps” could become a common occurrence.

Using data from the California’s Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS), law enforcement can compare subsequent court and medical records after a legal gun purchase has been made to determine if the individual is still eligible to own a firearm. Prohibiting factors include a person’s having “been adjudicated to be a danger to self or others as a result of a mental disorder or mental illness or has been adjudicated to be a mentally disordered sex offender.” Additional restrictions include having “a record of a felony conviction or violent misdemeanor or domestic violence restraining order.”

This mental disorder issue is a potential slippery slope. According to Mental Health America, there are currently more than 200 identified forms of mental illness, and these range from Acute Stress Disorder to habitual hair pulling (trichotillomania). Using the broad brush of “mental illness,” should firearm-ownership restrictions be applied to someone who is a workplace bully, smokes pot on the weekend, wears two pairs of underwear, has obnoxious personal habits, uses profanity, takes steroids, watches pornography, enjoys violent movies, plays video games or is a fan of cage fights? Or, suppose someone with a “Type A” personality wants to buy a gun. Is being driven or successful a mental disorder?

Patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy and those taking powerful pain killers have a greater potential for making bad decisions than do healthy people. Should these individuals be prohibited from owning a weapon during treatment? A pharmacist friend of mine says that there are no side-effect-free medications. Should doctors report to the state whenever someone needs to change or start medications?

Most people, including gun owners, will agree that someone suffering from a violent, felonious, uncontrolled or untreatable aggression should not be allowed to legally own a gun. As we all know, someone who is intent upon getting a weapon will, due to the law of supply and demand, find it on the black market. (Does Prohibition ring any bells?)

My concern is that an increasing use and strict enforcement of APPS, in conjunction with medical, employment, social-media or email data, could lead to disastrous, but unintended, consequences.


Founder, NOTSAFE.org

Santa Barbara

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