Ed.: 022018e – Words: 1185 – Audio: N/A
Post Introduction –
Law enforcement is a tool society (through government) uses for enforcement of public safety. They enforce based on the criteria we provide to them. By extension, any background gun check databases that would be authorized by law would be accessed in the routine of the powers of law enforcement. But the criteria of judging who ends up losing a level of their gun rights and lands on some gun control database is entirely the responsibility of our lawmakers, with the approval of SCOTUS if necessary. Checks & balances.
I mentioned in a previous post that it seems the only process in all this that seems to be working is at the local gun store; retailers have been using the background check database access according to the law on gun purchases. But in the end, the database they use is only as good as the data entered into it.
As of this writing, the FBI is being hammered for having had a significant responsibility in missing having done their due diligence in responding to a report made to them in early January this year regarding signs of violence exhibited by the Florida shooter. While this originally was announced by the FBI Director himself as an FBI “mistake”, nonetheless, there is a common sense perspective that goes beyond pointing a finger.
In a past post of this series I indicated a possible (and plausible) number of 6% of the population having very serious mental health issues. Obviously not everyone in the percentage is a threat to the public and will end up a mass shooter. But based on 2010 census data, that 6% is something like 18 million people. When the FBI instituted that call-in phone number for the public to report suspicious activity, it was designed to expose terrorist plots before they occurred. This has ended up including calls to report on suspicious, possibly mentally ill, people. As I understand it, at first the FBI accepted those calls from regional field offices. When calls increased in volume the FBI created a national call center. It seems that call center can get up to 2,000 calls a day. It doesn’t take a math genius to imagine any percentage of the 18 million mental health problems alone would inundate the system… and that’s just the call center. How many field agents are necessary to vet all these calls?
Now… add to the above facts the problematic idea that the FBI can actually do anything about any given call beyond maybe a “surface” inspection of a residence of the subject and a weapons check for proper ownership. So far in this country we can’t detain anyone for “looking” guilty as hell to the neighbors. If the FBI slipped on even doing that much then that’s a procedural thing for them to iron out… which could easily turn into a not-enough-staff situation where more money is needed for hiring agents (more tax dollars). That in itself illustrates that just tossing this all on the FBI in no way solves the problem. Lawmakers, state and federal, need to set operating parameters that still maintain our Constitutional freedoms. (You mean all this involves another amendment besides the Second??? Duh.. yeah.. the Fourth Amendment mumbles something about illegal search & seizures.)
If there is going to be some national mental health policy it MUST include coordination with the various state social services agencies. Specifically the family services agencies; children & family services, etc. Apparently when the Florida shooter was a minor (just a year before, actually) there were a number contacts by local social services staff, who also tacitly fell short somehow.
Then there was the failing of local law enforcement, who actually responded to the Florida shooters many domestic calls something like 39 times, and failed to pass that on to social services… or in the least, never questioned social services on past calls.
What about DMV? Is there some reporting/checking on whether a person’s mental health issues should prevent them from driving? There is no “right to drive” guaranteed by the Constitution, and there are in fact other medical maladies that do indeed prevent people from obtaining a drivers license. Who is to say a person with mental issues won’t weaponize a vehicle (which has happened; remember Charlottesville?)?
What about Mental Health Professionals?
Doctors, lawyers (and likely Indian chiefs because they are on their own sovereign land), all profess to following patient/client confidentiality. I will suggest that the psych community does NOT readily express to law enforcement authorities a potentially violent patient at risk to self or the public, which they are obligated to do. Analyzing mental problems is very subjective and the professional’s evaluation might suggest the patient is not a risk.. when in fact they may well be. But the first time a doctor calls the police.. and the police check the patient out.. that doctor looses patient trust… and likely more importantly, that person may not trust any psych person, thus threatening their own future treatment.
Law Enforcement – We need to make sure that existing gun laws are effectively enforced. If there are shortcomings as a result of errors in omission, process, tools, dated applications, politics, whatever… if current laws are enforced to their maximum effectiveness we may not need as many additional controls.
Also, law enforcement agencies at all levels need to communicate better.. state, local, federal. There has to be linkages and coordination with public professional, social, and licensing agencies that respond in kind to mental health issues.
Database(s) – If there is only one federal gun check database accessible by law enforcement and gun store owners, or if there are also state databases… one might wish to consolidate them. There should one be one database, with access determined by level of need; law enforcement sees it all and can make entries, gun store owners just see what they need to verify a purchase.. and verify the gun store owner actually made the check. I see NO need to have any sort of record of a purchase, the ID of the gun, tied to a purchaser, on some federal database. The gun store owner would still need a record of the purchase as any other store selling any product.
Mental Health Professionals?
Any development of a national mental health policy MUST include considerations regarding the criteria where confidentiality issues can be maintained yet not at the expense of public safety. While some avenues exist I have doubts on the extent of their application and value.