By Paul Bremmer
Among the provisions of what Barack Obama calls “common sense” measures to stop “gun violence” – which critics condemn as the president’s latest unconstitutional end-runs around Congress – one controversial new rule empowers health-care providers to report the names of mentally ill patients to a FBI firearms background check system.
Providers will no longer need to obtain the patient’s consent before sharing such information.
Obvious problems with this measure have been cited, such as the effect of discouraging battled-scarred military veterans from seeking mental health care for fear of losing their right to possess a firearm.
But journalist David Kupelian, author of the influential new book, “The Snapping of the American Mind,” even questions whether Obama’s far-left administration might possibly be tempted to use this new rule to target “dissidents” – outspoken critics, conservatives, Christians, constitutionalists and the like – as mentally impaired or unstable, and, therefore, unfit for gun ownership.
“Don’t laugh,” Kupelian said. “The left – which in today’s America dominates not only government, but also psychology and the social sciences – has a proven track record throughout modern history of demonizing and pathologizing conservatism and Christianity.”
In fact, as Kupelian noted, he predicted this very sort of thing in “The Snapping of the American Mind.” In that recently released book, he wrote:
“Under Obama, the U.S. government has seen fit to target ‘dissidents’ in a variety of ways, from Homeland Security profiling conservatives as potential ‘extremists,’ to the IRS notoriously discriminating against tea-party groups, to the legal prosecution of Christians for declining to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies. How big a leap might it be from these forms of persecution to ‘diagnosing’ members of the same groups as ‘mentally ill,’ ‘disordered,’ or ‘impaired?’ (That would certainly be a handy way to deny firearms ownership to such newly minted ‘mental-health risks.’)”
There is ample precedent for this, as Kupelian notes. In the Soviet Union, brave dissidents who spoke out against communism were diagnosed with invented conditions like “philosophical intoxication” and “sluggish schizophrenia” and were confined in psychiatric hospitals for “treatment.”
Even today in America, conservatives are constantly slammed with labels that imply some sort of mental disorder. Kupelian writes in his book:
“Consider: Those who complain their once-great country is being overrun with illegal immigrants are branded ‘xenophobic,’ a pathologizing label implying one has a phobia (a mental disorder). Opponents of radically redefining marriage are ‘homophobic,’ a made-up pathologizing label. Those objecting to Islamist subversion of the United States are ‘Islamophobic,’ another made-up pathologizing label. Same with ‘biphobia,’ for people who don’t like to be around bisexuals, and ‘transphobia,’ for people uncomfortable around transgendered people.
“Those questioning ‘catastrophic man-caused global warming’ are ‘climate-change deniers,’ an epithet designed to convey not merely pathological denial, but moral equivalence to ‘Holocaust deniers’ – in other words, dangerous derangement.”
Clearly, not everyone is worried about government abuse of the mental health system. As Politico reported:
“Paul Gionfriddo, chief executive of the mental health rights advocate Mental Health America, said he believes the White House strikes the right balance between the need to have this information shared with the FBI’s background check system and protecting individuals’ privacy.
“Current law allows HIPAA exclusions for law enforcement purposes, but it’s a broad exclusion.
“‘That could be a barn door opened quite wide if an administration really wanted to open it, and they didn’t,’ Gionfriddo said.”
Kupelian scoffed at what he sees as Gionfriddo’s naiveté.
“Once the ‘barn door’ is opened even a little, what will stop it from being opened all the way in the future?” Kupelian asked. “Nothing, as history proves.”
Veteran news and opinion writer Cheryl Chumley, like Kupelian, is deeply uncomfortable with the new rule on mental health and gun control.
“This is a wolf in sheep’s disguise,” said Chumley, author of “Police State USA.” “Republicans have been saying for years the problem with gun-related violence has nothing to do with the guns themselves – as guns are inanimate objects and cannot operate absent a shooter. But rather, the problem of gun-related violence is one of mental health. And on that, Obama’s turned a blind eye and deaf ear, preferring instead to make emotion-filled pleas on the heels of gun-related acts of violence for more restrictive curbs to the Second Amendment.
“But those have failed. So, in the face of failure upon failure of pressing more comprehensive gun controls through Congress, now comes Obama with executive orders to curb the Second Amendment and – surprise, surprise – his administration is simultaneously pressing for more government oversight of the mental health sector, to make sure the mentally ill don’t have easy access to guns. Are we really supposed to applaud this? Are we that stupid?”
Chumley, whose forthcoming book is titled “The Devil in DC,” believes this new rule is actually a clever political ploy. Many Republicans and gun groups will oppose it, and Obama will accuse them of not wanting any gun regulations, even those dealing with mental health.
“The problem with this rule is the same as the problem with Obama’s other idea of denying guns to those who are on federal no-fly lists: It puts a government authority (because Obamacare has made health care governmental, not private) in charge of deciding which names make the list,” she argued.
“The Second Amendment doesn’t allow for that, pure and simple. The American people ought to react with rapid backlash to this proposed rule, and flood the comment period with messages that demand its quick death.”
Marc Fitch, on the other hand, has a different perspective. The author of “Shmexperts: How Ideology and Power Politics are Disguised as Science” has worked in the mental health field for seven years and sees another problem with the new rule.
“What I find most interesting is that the HIPAA laws are going to be suspended for the mentally ill for law enforcement, but not for families,” Fitch told WND. “As it currently stands, we can’t tell a patient’s family anything about them unless they sign a waiver saying we can talk with their family or caregiver. This can be nearly impossible with psychotic, paranoid, manic and delusional patients. In effect, we are saying that the FBI can have access to find out more about a patient’s condition than their own family and loved ones.”
The answer, according to Fitch, is to amend HIPAA so that families, not the government, have greater access to information about their mentally ill loved ones.
Fitch also questions whether the new rule will actually be used against patients with only mild symptoms. If it’s not, then the rule doesn’t add anything to current law, he reasoned.
“If it is necessary that the patient be reported to the FBI, then they should probably be involuntarily committed to an inpatient unit, which would automatically prevent them from obtaining a firearm under current law,” he said.
What’s more, Fitch said increased reporting of mentally ill patients to the background check database would not do much to prevent mass shootings because many mentally ill mass shooters are experiencing a break for the first time. So they may have broken no laws until their commission of the mass shooting, and current law prohibits their families from forcing them into treatment unless they break a law.
“If you wanted to get people help and treatment early, families should be empowered to force the patient to get help and be able to monitor their progress as they receive treatment,” Fitch argued. “Many of these shooters had never been involuntarily committed or committed any crime before their rampage, so increased reporting of involuntary commitment wouldn’t change much in those situations.”
The way Fitch sees it, the new rule does not give doctors any powers outside their normal duties as psychiatrists. What it does do is open privacy laws to the federal government when the families of mentally ill patients are the ones who could truly make a difference.
“If you want to improve the mental health system and prevent the ill from obtaining firearms, we have to make the ability for families to get help for their loved one, whether that individual wants it or not,” Fitch declared. “Families are ground zero for the mental health system; the government is the last in a long line of possible preventions, but sees itself as more important and consequential to the care of both the mentally ill and society – that is a mistake.”