Letters to the Editor

Treatable illness

February 27, 2008


To the editor:

I'd like to expand on Mary Ann Kiefer's Feb. 22 letter calling for a revised gun bill. I want our legislators to pass a bill requiring background checks on all men who want to buy guns. After all, all these school mass murderers were men. They had a history of being men and all bought guns and ammo before their deaths (as opposed to afterwards.) So why sell guns to men?

On a more serious note, about half of all Americans will suffer from some sort of mental disorder sometime in their lifetimes, with over 14 percent (that's over 42 million men, women and children) suffering from moderate or severe mental illness, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

This includes members of the NRA, teachers and students, police officers and gun dealers and, I'll bet, members of Kiefer's own family and circle of friends. (Why do you think you see so many ads for Cymbalta on TV?)

Mental illness is treatable. But, thanks in part to the stigma created by poorly thought through comments such as Ms. Kiefer's, many people who need help delay getting it.

What everyone should understand is that people with a mental illness are people with a treatable illness, not "mental patients." We should encourage people to seek treatment, not push to stigmatize and punish them for getting help. We should also show our support for our local nonprofit mental health service providers like the Recovery and Hope Network (RAHN) and Bert Nash.

Kendall Simmons,


stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 4 months ago

Multidisciplinary indeed... that was a little girl...

imastinker 10 years, 4 months ago


I don't think that's what he said at all.

oldvet 10 years, 4 months ago

Uuuhhhh... Kendall... there already is a law requiring background checks... you fill out the form, provide your identification and the seller contacts the FBI to get the OK. Once cleared, you can purchase... If you want to have a restriction on people diagnosed with a mental illness, then you will have to eliminate the privacy in the HIPPA regulations and let a national database be established for those treated for mental illness. Then states and medical providers will be required to provide updates with patient information. If you're OK with that, I'm OK with it...

mom_of_three 10 years, 4 months ago

Yes, the first paragraph was sarcasm.
and people with mental illness need help. But there also should be measures to prevent them from getting guns. It will come down to weighing someone's right to privacy against the right to keep everyone safe.

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 4 months ago

mmmmm, no men allowed gun club, could get interesting.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 4 months ago

mommmaefforx2 Yeah, I'm all for the first idea. Only women can have guns. We could whip those guys into shape. They'd have to change the diapers then. :>)

Ragingbear 10 years, 4 months ago

Mental illness does not always = Dangerous. Many people immediately think of schizophrenics (hearing voices, paranoid delusions) as violent because those are the only ones you see in the media. In reality, 99.8% of them are non-violent.

People with Bipolar (depression and mania with compulsiveness, agitation and lack of focus) are usually able to live a normal life with proper treatment.

Depression is the same way. As one that suffers from this ailment, I can honestly say that I have only had 2 incidents where I would have been tempted to do something to myself, and never to others.

Where would we draw the line? There should be a line, there is no doubt about that, but where is it? Schizophrenia? Bipolar? Depression? PTSD ? ADD? PMS? Seriously, where would the line be?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 4 months ago

This is a very complicated question. Yes, mental illness can be treated, but if the patient is an adult, they can refuse treatment. This guy had stopped taking his meds. Some of the homeless population also refuse treatment. How do we sort those who should have guns from those who shouldn't? It would be nice if we could give special permit forms for clubs where, for whatever strange reason, people could go and use high powered rifles that are useless for hunting, only used for target practice and killing people. The guns would be kept in the club only. Hunters could have simple rifles (that's what real hunting is all about). People wanting protection from crime could have simple pistols. Yes, people will still be murdered, but no one needs these guns that pump bunches of bullets without reloading. They are for the sole purpose of killing a lot of people. There is no other use for them.

Ragingbear 10 years, 4 months ago

Dorothyhr, they already got clubs like that. Just contact the NRA and they will direct you to the nearest ones.

kef104 10 years, 4 months ago


What a powerful reference. The song, by the Boomtown Rats, is just as stirring today. I had not thought of it in years. It has been close to 30 years since that girl decided to shoot everyone. Her dad should have given her a radio.

notajayhawk 10 years, 4 months ago

mom_of_three (Anonymous) says:

"But there also should be measures to prevent them from getting guns. It will come down to weighing someone's right to privacy against the right to keep everyone safe."

I'm just going to (mostly) cut-and-paste from a post I made to the original LTE:

In order to prevent the mentally ill from getting guns, you'd have to do four things (at least):

1) Completely give up the confidentiality of medical records. Not all people with a potentially dangerous mental illness end up in psychiatric facilities, and it's not just records from psychiatric professionals you'd need; GPs prescribe a lot of psychotropics. Do you want it to be part of a general database that you were put on Ritalin as a child, or that you were prescribed Trazodone or Restoril, both antidepressants, as a sleep aid, or Welbutrin, another antidepressant, to quit smoking?

2) Come up with a definitive standard for what constitutes "dangerous." Two of the most common, and generally considered most mild, mental disorders, adjustment disorder and bereavement, can both include symptoms of major depression, including suicidality. More than half the population is diagnosable with a mental disorder.

3) Come up with a way to screen for mental disorders in the general population. Not all criminals are prevented from having guns, only those who have been caught and convicted. Similarly, only the mentally ill who have already done something outrageous enough to warrant intervention would be in any database. (Nobody knew David Berkowitz was "mentally unstable," did they?)

4) Again, similar to convicted felons, you'd have to find a way to stop the mentally ill from obtaining guns from alternate sources - gun shows, private sales, getting them on the street, etc. (Remember, the kid who shot up the mall in Nebraska used guns belonging to a family member.)

Unless you think there's a foolproof way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, you'd better be willing to accept the fact that it's equally impossible to keep them out of the hands of the mentally ill.

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