GUEST OPINION: Merging mental health assessment and access to guns
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 6:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 6:28 p.m.
Now that the conversation about gun violence is front and center, it is time to be focusing on the relationship between mental health and gun violence. It is here that psychologists and other mental health professionals can make a difference and become part of the debate on this issue.
As a psychologist, I am deeply committed to a life as free as possible from any type of harm and also committed to the needs of people who are experiencing mental, emotional and behavioral problems.
The mental stability of a person seeking to obtain firearms is only one aspect of the wider picture to control and reduce gun violence. California is among those states with stringent gun control measures. I believe there remains a void to be filled when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of people who are experiencing severe mental health disorders and associated behavioral problems.
There needs to be a conversation about how to integrate mental health assessments into access to guns. This will not be a complete solution to reducing gun violence. But it's an opportunity for our state to address how we can do the best job possible to deny the purchase of firearms by those who have the most potential to do harm.
California gun laws need to be consistent with protecting the constitutional right to acquire firearms while reducing gun violence by people who may be impaired and should be denied access to guns.
Psychologists nor anyone else can predict future gun violence or indicate which individuals will commit a crime. Prediction, however, is not the issue. The issue is one of probability and science. People who are experiencing mental, emotional and behavioral disorders are more likely than others to commit mass gun violence when a gun is present and easily available.
The proposal is analogous to California's medical marijuana law that requires people to be evaluated by a physician and issued a certificate that allows them to legally use marijuana for their medical problem.
It should not be more difficult to acquire medical marijuana than it is to purchase and acquire firearms by a person whose mental condition may predispose him or her to do harm.
Any person who seeks to purchase a gun or any type of firearm that is legal under a statute should be required to obtain a standardized psychological assessment from a licensed doctoral level mental health specialist.
After an assessment is completed, the mental health professional can issue and sign a standardized document stating that an assessment has been performed and that the person named in the document has no statute-defined impairment. No person should be allowed to purchase a firearm without this official clearance certificate.
This proposal is not a total solution to end gun violence. No solution will ever achieve 100 percent protection. It should be viewed as a means where mental health professionals can participate and have real input in reducing harm by those who use firearms.
Frank Lucchetti is a member of the National Alliance of Professional Psychology Providers. He lives in Sonoma.
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