Is the Threat of Gun Background Checks Preventing Vets From Getting Mental Health Assistance?
The once great state of Colorado, overrun by progressive barbarians last November, has been hit with several pieces of legislation, signed by Governor Hickenlooper, that severely infringe on a litany of 2nd Amendment rights. One measure limits legal gun magazine sizes to 15 rounds. As a result of this arbitrary and ineffective new law, Mag Pul Industries, and HiViz, both manufacturers of gun accessories, are preparing to relocate in other states, taking hundreds of jobs with them. This legislation has also culminated in a lawsuit brought by a majority of Colorado’s county sheriffs against the state because it limits their ability to enforce the law.
Other gun-control measures such as adding a “background check” tax to gun purchases, and banning the private “transfer” of firearms without a background check, have proved to be irrational and highly problematic. With county sheriffs suing the state, manufacturers leaving Colorado, and the negative impact on hunting sports yet to be felt in full measure, it’s clear to the people of Colorado that these new gun control laws are thoughtless reactions to violence they would not have prevented had they been implemented in the past. These effects, thus far, are pretty clear, but the least controversial of these measures, “expanded background checks” for gun ownership, may prove to be the most destructive to liberty and life in the long run.
Most people support basic background checks which tease out criminal records and other information that would prohibit a felon or known dangerous individual from owning a gun. But with the Colorado background check legislation, “mental health” criteria has been added to those background checks. This is not just problematic for gun purchasers but for retailers who are up against the expansive health care privacy code, HIPAA. It is still a little unclear how background checks performed by firearms retailers will avoid breaking the HIPAA privacy law, but the language in the U.S. Senate bill that was, thankfully, voted down in April, negates HIPAA for gun background checks. The impact on confidential relationships between doctors and therapists and their patients, as well as the ill-defined intrusion into medical records, has many people in Colorado fearful that such a background check could lead, not only to their inability to purchase firearms now and into the future, but to the confiscation of the guns they presently own.
In the language of HB 13-1229, interactions with mental health and substance abuse facilities and services are poorly defined. Any contact with, or record of having used, mental health counseling, rehab, or other innocuous procedures such as a basic psychological evaluation, could potentially prevent an individual from owning a gun. With nebulous criteria now encoded into Colorado law, anyone perceived as simply troubled, traumatized, unstable, or “at risk” will come under scrutiny should their medical records become part of an expanded background check. In many instances this may be appropriate, if, for instance, an individual has a history of violent acting out, delusions, hallucinations, or other manifestations of severe mental illness. But with roughly 1 of 5 American adults, and a similar percentage of children, now being diagnosed with a mental health issue–most commonly depression–gun background checks may serve to criminalize an entire sector of society that is guilty of nothing more than having gone through an emotional rough spell.
America’s active-duty military personnel and veterans are a population who are naturally at risk for emotional difficulties, especially during the transition from service to civilian life. The population of wounded veterans returning home is now a higher percentage than in the past because of the improved life-saving measures available to those who receive battlefield injuries. These men and women have undergone transformational experiences and will naturally struggle with difficult emotions as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives and carry on. These difficulties are not an indication of mental illness, but of human adversity. Nevertheless, mental health counseling, group therapy, and at times, anti-depressants or other psycho-active drugs, can help veterans navigate the tough waters of coming home. There is a concern among veterans advocates that the recent “expanded background” checks in Colorado’s gun laws, are preventing returning warriors from seeking the help they need to get through the crucial transition period, because they fear being labeled mentally ill and having their gun rights impeded if not nullified completely.
Fear of being pegged as having mental illness or being unfit to own firearms is certainly on the minds of many vets who are struggling upon their return home. Most veteran suicides occur between the time of discharge and when veteran’s benefits kick in, often up to a year in the sluggish Veterans Administration. Those months without formal help can be a make or break period for those veterans who are suffering and need to seek professional help. But as legislators formulate gun control laws that nullify doctor/patient confidentiality and expose personal records to the scrutiny of dispassionate, and sometimes agenda-driven bureaucrats, the reluctance of many military veterans to seek help within the mental health/medical community is understandable. The sad irony of this particular effect of overreaching gun legislation is that it oppresses the men and women who have placed themselves in harms way for their country. Gun background check legislation may be most detrimental to those who are military-trained firearms experts, and who understand the role weapons play in self defense and defense of the Homeland. Our military personnel and veterans have sworn with their own blood and lives to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, but when they return home they find unconstitutional laws threatening their very ability to enjoy the basic rights they risked their lives to ensure all other Americans enjoy.
Our military personnel need our prayers and support. Our veterans need our love and listening ears. It’s a sad day when those who have served the United States cannot trust the government of the United States to protect their liberties. That day is here and our veterans are becoming victims of the very system for which they have given so much.
by Marjorie Haun 9/17/13