Access to Weapons for the Mentally Ill Who May be Suicidal
Recently I wrote about why people with a mental illness shouldn’t be denied access to guns. My argument is, essentially, that it is a violation of their rights to judge the mentally ill based on a medical diagnosis and, in this society, we judge people based on what they do and not their medical conditions.
Some of the commenters on this post brought up the fact that with access to weapons, a person with a mental illness may be more likely to commit suicide. For example, about half of all people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide and certainly, an attempted suicide with a gun is very likely to be a completed suicide.
However, this doesn’t change my opinion one bit. While I have written and written about suicide and suicide attempts and I have said that, as a society, we should aim for zero suicides, that does not mean that we should violate people’s rights to do it.
People Can Kill Themselves with a Thumbtack
People can kill themselves with anything or with nothing at all. All it takes is stepping in front of a truck to really ruin your whole day. And while suicide with a gun may be faster and more effective than other means, certainly other means work just fine.
Moreover, while about 50% of people with bipolar disorder may attempt suicide, that means that about 50% of people with bipolar disorder do not and I do not believe in curtailing the rights of all to save the few who would choose to attempt suicide with a gun (most suicide attempts do not involve guns).
Taking Responsibility for Suicide
And when it comes down to it, we, as a society, do not run around with a net trying to stop everyone from hurting themselves. We don’t bar gambling-addicts from casinos even though the choice to enter them may destroy the gambler. We don’t take the knives from self-harmers houses even though those knives are what might help them end up in the emergency room.
We don’t take away a person’s rights unless they are an acute danger to themselves – and when they are, we invoke treatment, we do not permanently remove rights (this treatment is, of course, time-limited and rare).
I want to save lives as much, or probably more, than the next person, but I don’t believe in stomping on personal freedoms to do it. Should a person with suicidal tendencies have access to a weapon? No, I would say not, but that’s a decision he or she has to make for themselves, and not one the government gets to make for him. Treatment needs to be given to the suicidal; not further indignities such as infringements on their rights.