WASHINGTON-April 9, 2013- “That millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make people sane.”- Erich Fromm, The Sane Society.
Who are the so-called “mentally ill” people the Obama administration and the National Rifle Association (NRA) refer too when debating gun control measures? Where are “they” and how are those in favor of a database of names of the mentally ill for gun control, intending to make this information available without violating physician-patient privacy laws?
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), physicians are legally and ethically obligated to not disclose patient information as defined by doctor- patient privilege, which is different than doctor-patient confidentiality.
Confidentially is an ethical concept of the Oath of Hippocrates, whereas privilege is a legal concept guaranteed under the U.S Constitution, Fifth and Fourteenth amendment rights.
With today’s 2nd Amendment in question, the concern is precedence for the government to weaken the Fifth and Fourteenth and loosen the bonds of physician reporting.
In history, one only needs to examine the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s with the government labeling people as mentally ill without justification creating a slippery slope of identifying who was, is, and might be and soon to be “mentally ill.”
No one at the NRA, our government or in society at large wish for the truly mentally ill to pack side arms. Moving the gun control agenda along, in January Obama directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to start studying the “cause” of gun violence.
The actual work, and funding, has been awarded to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) who is charged with looking at the influence video games and social media have on those who commit gun violence.
The needle in the haystack being sought is empirical data that is created by government-funded research versus the private studies now relied on.
The primary mental issues that create such violence as the Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and other similar shootings can fall into the categories of: untreated schizophrenia, untreated bi-Polarism and mental illness that creates psychotic delusion.
This said, studies in every modern industrial country indicate the mentally ill are responsible for comparatively and relatively a small percentage of public violence and are far more likely to be victims of violence.
In light of the NRA’s suggestion and now the federal government’s position as seemingly heading toward a means to prevent the mentally afflicted from gun ownership, there are actions that can be initiated to prevent ownership from the afflicted without trampling privacy rights.
There can be a two-pronged approach to weed out those who have identifiable disorders that tend to violence: One significant and fast test is the Free-Viewing Test where schizoids can be detected with a reported 98.3 percent accuracy.
The knowledge that those with psychotic issues have a variety of abnormal eye movements has been known for over 100 years and this test is cheap, only takes minutes and those applying for gun permits must pay for and produce the results upon application.
This eye test is being considered for routine clinical practice.
A second measure is an abbreviated first line of defense style mental stability, testing method designed by psychiatrists and psychologists that would uncover or identify latent psychological issues, with further testing being required if one does not do well on the initial test.
Perhaps this is a fast measure to calm the nerves of the nation without violating privacy rights and violating the patient-physician ethics and the current laws.
An eye test, a written exam and a background check might slow down those wishing to avoid scrutiny and help soothe a jittery public.
The cost of these tests, shouldered by applicants, would not burden an already depressed economy and anyone wishing for a gun for legitimate purposes can wait a week or two.
Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.
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