The vast majority of mental patients never hurt anyone -- but America has a horrible pattern of mass murder committed by a few gun-wielding male psychotics.
The slaughter of school tots in Connecticut. The massacre of movie theater patrons in Colorado. The killing of supporters visiting Rep. Gabby Giffords at an Arizona parking lot. The mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Etc., etc.
A front-page report in the Dec. 22 New York Times outlined the difficulty involved in taking pistols away from delusional people. The article was headlined: "When Right to Bear Arms Includes the Mentally Ill."
Most laws allow confiscation only when emotional disorders have been certified by judges. Therefore, police often must return guns to deranged suspects. The national paper cited this example:
Schizophrenic Kenneth Anderson behaved violently at his Indianapolis home in 2004, and police confiscated nine of his guns. But no court ruled him psychotic, so officers were forced to return his weapons. A few months later, Anderson killed his mother and stalked his neighborhood with an assault rifle and two pistols. When police arrived, he killed one officer and wounded four others before he was gunned down.
The Times recounted various cases in which paranoid people claimed to be God or Jesus, or thought demons were pursuing them -- yet officers who took guns from these patients later were required to give them back.
Even the mentally ill have a "right to bear arms," in many cases, it seems. But after a Maine patient left a mental hospital and regained his guns, the local police chief asked: "If you're in the apartment next door to this guy, what about your rights?"
In Louisiana, Ben Freeman was a registered nurse who was fired after he wrecked a hospital room, then told police he would seek mental treatment. Last week, he murdered his wife, his ex-mother-in-law and his former hospital boss, while wounding three others, then killing himself. Another deranged male with firearms.
America's never-ending gun debate seems unsolvable -- but nearly everyone should support tougher laws to keep deadly weapons away from psychotics.