This time, they are stark, raving, barking, howling mad. And they may be in charge. “They” would be the legislators who appear driven to make the Second Amendment superior to all our other rights. They would not even interfere with the “right” of a dangerously mentally ill person to have unfettered access to guns and ammunition. And they would block that person’s medical providers from tipping off the cops if their patient is about to explode.
House Bill 562, written by Mecklenburg Republican Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, would allow concealed-carry permit holders to take their guns onto school property, if they left the guns locked in their vehicles. It would require that businesses that don’t allow weapons to post a large sign to that effect, and it minimizes the penalty for ignoring the sign. It would exempt shooting ranges from noise ordinances that were passed after they were built. It would allow guns on the State Fairgrounds, except during the State Fair.
And then it gets worse. It would allow hunting with silencers – which means any would-be assassin or mass murderer would now have easy access to silencers at local gun shops or even, heaven help us, from Amazon.com. And it would force sheriffs to grant concealed-carry permits after 90 days, even if inquiries about the applicant’s mental health haven’t been answered yet.
But all of that still is nothing – an insignificant bit of tribute to the NRA’s power – compared with the piece de resistance, the crown jewel of House 562. This legislative insanity would forbid doctors or psychiatrists from asking their patients in writing – like on a standard patient questionnaire – if they own or have access to guns. And they would be banned from reporting that information to anyone, even the cops, even if their patient talked about causing harm to himself or others.
Shrink: So Jimmy, I know you’ve been feeling more anger lately and that your medicine doesn’t seem to control it as well. Are you having any thoughts about doing something violent?
Jimmy: Sure am, doc. I’m thinking about going out in a blaze of glory. Gonna take out Mom and Dad and little Suzy, and any goshdarned cops who try to stop me.
Shrink: Oh, OK Jimmy. Let’s talk some more. Maybe we can adjust your meds. But don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. By law, it’s all between us.
That part of the bill has drawn a storm of opposition from psychiatrists, pediatricians and the N.C. Medical Society, among others. It should. It bans physicians from performing what is a national standard of care and exposes them to an enormous malpractice liability. It also would be instrumental in a lot of deaths.
I’ve been a gun owner since somewhere around my 10th birthday and support responsible use of firearms, including concealed-carry.
I’m not aware of anything in the Second Amendment about the right to bear arms extending to people whose mental illness renders them incapable of rational thought and who will act out violent impulses with as much firepower as they can muster. Nor is there any historic evidence that Founders had it in mind.
The good news is that Schaffer’s bill didn’t make the “crossover” deadline for passing the House and moving to the Senate. The bad news is that someone on the House Rules Committee arbitrarily threw a $20,000 appropriation into the bill, and bills that include appropriations don’t have to meet that deadline. The monster is alive.
Schaffer said last week that her measure “is really making sure that we are protecting the Second Amendment rights of our law-abiding citizens. We have these weapons for our protection and our self-defense.”
Even if you’re stark, raving, barking, howling mad.
Don’t lose sight of this bill. If it passes, we’re going to develop a serious public-health problem.
Tim White is the editorial page editor of the Fayetteville Observer.