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Executive Actions on Gun Violence Violates Civil Rights

Author: National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery : Contact:

Published: 2016-01-10


Executive actions on gun control falsely link mental health conditions and gun violence, and ADA violate civil rights.

Main Digest

President Obama's executive actions on gun control falsely link mental health conditions and gun violence, and violate civil rights protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), says the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR), an organization of statewide networks of individuals with psychiatric diagnoses.

"By linking mental health issues with gun violence, the President exacerbates the discrimination and prejudice associated with mental health conditions and drives people away from seeking treatment," said NCMHR board president Daniel B. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist who himself recovered from schizophrenia.

Other national disability rights organizations – including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law – also oppose President Obama's actions to include individuals who use representative payees to manage their Social Security benefits in the gun background check database.

"As the National Council on Disability notes," Dr. Fisher continued, "'linking the need for a representative payee with a presumption of incapacity to exercise any right sets a dangerous precedent that undermines the goals of the ADA: equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.' And publicizing the names of individuals in identified populations constitutes a gross violation of their privacy rights and a dangerous marginalization of an already oppressed group."

Nor will such efforts decrease gun violence. As a federal website notes, "The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else." Most people with mental health conditions are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to them. In fact, people with severe mental health conditions are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.

When economist Richard Florida reviewed gun deaths and other social indicators, he found that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental health conditions didn't correlate with more gun deaths, Dr. Fisher said. Instead, Florida found that states with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths.

"We need tough gun control laws, such as Australia adopted after a mass shooting there in 1996," Dr. Fisher said. "The result was a huge drop in both homicides and suicides."

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