Mental illness and gun permits [edited title]

The State of Florida has released phone record transcripts between Zimmerman and his wife, Shelly Zimmerman. I haven’t even been able to get past the first audio tape :eek:. In the first tape, Zimmerman complained of not feeling well from what I can discern on the audio at 8:57 - 8:59 due to “not taking my medicine”. In the tape, he admitted he was able to get his Adderall and his mirtzapine (a tricyclic antidepressant for treatment-resistant depression) but not able to get a third medication . The third medication is, I think, benzodiapenes which was mentioned by the media but not on the audio tape or transcript - guess benzos aren’t allowed in Florida jail? Most drugs that effect the CNS precipitate withdrawal symptoms that would necessitate continued treatment or tapering off. You can’t just stop these drugs - hence Zimmerman’s complaining of withdrawal. This suggest to me that Zimmerman was on all three of these drugs or a combination thereof when he approached Martin.

Topic for debate: should individuals who are being treated for depression should be allowed to purchase firearms? If so, should they be issued concealed carry permits? For example, should treatment-resistant depressants or schizophrenics be allowed to purchase firearms as long as they prove they are taking their medication? Finally, if you are a psychiatrist (or heck, or a psychologist or counselor) would you feel comfortable with any of your patients having concealed carry permits? Thanks.

  • Honesty

You know what? There are millions and millions of people with depression who live peaceful, productive lives. Many people you know - both personally and publicly - manage to deal with depression just fine without you ever learning of it. Implying that they are dangerous and irresponsible (and lumping them together with schizophrenics) is frankly insulting.

I don’t have an answer, but can tell you that as someone who dislikes and is uncomfortable with guns but nevertheless supports gun rights (thanks in very large part to this board), and who also takes antidepressants and once took benzos daily, I have mixed feelings. I hate the idea of discrimination based on mental health, and would be very angry if I were told that the 2nd Amendment didn’t apply to me. At the same time, as much as I support the right of anyone to possess a gun, I sometimes think to myself, “I could have a gun? Me? Depressed, sometimes suicidal, formerly (voluntarily) hospitalized me?” If I’d grown up in a house with guns, it’s very likely that I wouldn’t be here, and at least somewhat likely that some others wouldn’t either. If anyone is going to be told they can’t own a gun… Then again, I’m feeling much better, now!

Honesty, I’m changing the title of this thread because I think it’s going to drag the discussion off track. If you want to discuss this issue in a general way and not the Martin/Zimmerman case specifically, I think a more general title will be better. Let me know if you have a problem with this or the title I’ve picked. (The thread title was originally “Zimmerman’s pharmacy-a-plenty.”)

Yeah, schizophrenic does not equal depression. Neither are all schizophrenics created equal.

Many States and the Federal government have restrictions or prohibitions in place preventing certain classes of people with mental illness from possessing, transporting, or purchasing firearms (rather prevented people from selling to them.)

The problem in a lot of cases is what’s generally a good idea–“crazy people shouldn’t have guns” can break down in application. Up until fairly recently, civil commitment was a very easy process. Someone entirely sane could end up civilly committed and in a psychiatric hospital for some time before being released. That single commitment, even if it never should have happened, would in many States and at the Federal level bar that person from ever owning a firearm again (and in many States bar them from ever voting again.) It’s gotten a bit harder to civilly commit people these days, typically also temporary “safety holds” aren’t usually (though they sometimes are) considered true “commitments” any longer. Nowadays you have some level of protection against willy nilly commitment, but in some cases it’s still kind of easy to end up in a psychiatric facility without any physician ever saying you belonged there.

For that reason I’m a little afraid of the general idea because we’ve already tried laws like this for the mentally ill and in many cases I think we’ve unfairly removed both voting and firearm ownership rights from persons who may not be mentally ill at all, and/or we’ve removed such rights from people who may be mentally ill but may not be any threat to society and may be capable of making rational decisions.

I can’t get on board with any diagnosis of depression reducing your rights, that’s far too much of a blanket. Most people with depression do not harm other people, hell most people with depression don’t harm themselves. Nor do most people on anti-depressants. I guess if a physician feels like your depression or the drugs you’re on make you so untrustworthy that you should not have firearms I don’t know that I want that person loose in society. That sounds like a good point to start saying “is this guy safe from self-harm or harming others out in society at all?”

What I could get on board with is on release from a psychiatric hospital, part of the release order basically saying “while this person has been judged not to be a danger to themselves or others we feel the unique circumstances of this person’s state of mind means the possession of firearms is not currently suitable and they should be barred from owning them until such time as [some review committee] judges the person safe to own and possess firearms.”

But I don’t like blanket laws and regulations, I’m fine with some committee of physicians with a mental hygiene commissioner or a judge being there to review it, putting this sort of limitation on someone being released from a commitment. But anyone who takes anti-depressants or who has a depression diagnosis? No, I don’t support any automatic abridgment of their rights.

It’d be a very effective way to make gun owners who need treatment or counseling do everything in their power to avoid getting help. Is that what you want?

Well, I am not schizophrenic and have been diagnosed as depressed, but I’m insulted by this. There are millions and millions of people with schizophrenia and schizophrenia disorders who live peaceful, productive lives. I’m glad that depression is becoming unstigmitized, but there are plenty of “crazy” people who I’d trust with a firearm over a person with an affective disorder (mania, hello?)

I would not be for a blanket ban for firearms just because someone carries a general diagnosis. A person can be diagnosed as schizophrenia and not have frank psychosis or be a danger to anyone. People can be depressed and not be a danger. People can also recover from these things. Why should a person who was diagnosed with a mental illness years ago have to jump through extra hurdles and proof their compentency?

Also, why stop at things like depression and schizophrenia? It seems to me that Zimmerman has ADHD, based on the nature of the drugs he is on. Should people with disorders associated with impulsivity also be barred from purchasing guns? That’s a whole slew of people. Not to mention, people with personality disorders, anger issues, and non-pathological character flaws (like assholishness and douchebaggery). Those folks are also scary.

Practitioners know when someone is just flirting with suicidal thinking, has full-blown suidal ideation, and is dangerously suicidal. They can also figure out if someone is a real danger to others. Those are the clues that should flag someone as being unfit, and a diagnosis isn’t even necessary. But how this information should get broadcast to the gun store without breaching confidentiality, I do not know.

Schizophrenics are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. When I had it I stayed in my room by myself. In part to avoid the ridicule, contempt and bullying I sometimes had to face because of my erratic (but nonviolent) behavior. But lots of people were decent and understanding too.

FWIW the only violent thoughts I ever had were in response to acts of violence and cruelty committed against me. But I never acted on them, just like the vast majority of non-mentally ill people don’t act on their violent thoughts.

I also own a gun. Perfectly legal too. Ha.

Wait – what do you mean, you had it? Schizophrenia isn’t something that can be cured. Treated, yes. Cured, no.

It can go into remission, Guin. If you had an episode ten years ago but have lived a normal life since then, would you say you were a schizophrenic? I know I wouldn’t.

There are people with chronic, life-long schizophrenia and others who have a more acute course.

Only a small minority of schizophrenics ever do anything violent.

There are around 9 million people in the U.S. being treated for depression. I’m not sure how many have the treatment-resistant type (meaning they’ve tried at least two medications without improvement), but it’s a good chunk. There are more than 2 million people with schizophrenia. So it should go without saying that the vast majority of all of these groups never shoot anybody, including themselves. With that in mind, saying none of those people can own a gun is a bad idea and it’s unnecessary. It makes sense to prevent people who are seriously mentally ill and who have violent tendencies from owning guns and there are already laws that are supposed to do that, at least in some states.

Monstro said: “Practitioners know when someone is just flirting with suicidal thinking, has full-blown suidal ideation, and is dangerously suicidal.”


“It is so hard to predict who will actually harm themselves that about 98 to 99 per cent of people deemed “high-risk” and incarcerated or heavily medicated never go on to commit suicide, says psychiatrist Matthew Large at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Most suicides occur among those with psychiatric conditions deemed to be low-risk.”

Predicting rare behaviour is often difficult because any predictive factors found almost invariably include many people who wont be at risk. So do you go the ‘just in case’ route, or accept that you will miss some genuine cases if you narrow your criteria? Its pretty obvious which way things will be decided when it comes to gun rights between the major groups involved. Safety proponents will tend to be happy to be over-inclusive, and Im guessing gun rights will tend to go more down the under-inclusive route .


I didn’t know that. Thanks.

I 100% agree with this. It could even be as simple as the prescribing doctor OKing it - someone ought to go on record and say, “Yes, I thnk this person is psychologically stable enough to own and possess a gun AND have a concealed carry permit”.

  • Honesty

P.S. Marley23, good call in editing the title. This is much better and less inflammatory than my original one. :wink:

If you can’t get on board with banning guns, what about about concealed carry permits? When I think about the Fort Hood shooter, the Tuscon shooter, the the DC sniper, and even the Virginia tech shooter, I think: history of mental illness. It makes me think that pre-existing mental illness combined wth free access to guns and concealed carry permits could precipitate a kind of chronic, low-level lone-wolf-like-terrorism.

  • Honesty

My understanding is that about 1/3 have one episode and no more, another 1/3 have chronic intermittent problems that get better with time and 1/3 have a long term chronic condition. I am thinking I was in the first group (thank Allah).

A guy I knew in a Schizophrenics group, after getting better, went to work as a medical assistant in the same mental hospital where he had been a patient.

None of them had concealed carry permits. Even if they had, carry on campus or military base is prohibited. There is no concealed carry permit for sniper rifles. If someone is intent on murdering people, the lack of a carry permit is not an impediment.

When you turn on the news and hear about random drive-bys, drug-related shootings, domestic violence, and just overall douche-baggery, what common factors come to mind? I’m sure drunkeness and intoxification influence most violent behavior. Why not ban alcoholics and drug addicts? Poverty and testerone are also associated with violence. Ban poor folks and men?

I suspect committees would routinely decide not to allow someone to purchase a firearm. After all, if they okay someone to purchase firearms and they become homicidal or suicidal they might be open to some expensive malpractice suits.