President Trump has argued, correctly, that Nikolas Cruz should have been reported and that this information should have prevented him from buying a gun as expressed in this tweet:
"So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again."
Trump's critics rightfully point out that he signed a law that repealed an Obama regulation that would have added an additional 75,000 people who suffer from mental illness to the national background data check. No doubt Trump would like to take that back.
The rule that was repealed specifically required that the Social Security Administration add people who have been deemed incapable of managing their financial affairs to that list. That would include many who receive SSI disability payments due to mental illness. This would not have prevented Nikolas Cruz from obtaining all his guns, but it would have been a small step in the right direction.
The measure was part of a larger group of Obama rules that were reasonably repealed by Congress shortly after Trump took office. Yes, the repeal of the gun measure was supported by the NRA, but another organization that has been largely left out of this discussion, the ACLU, was also to blame.
In a letter to Congress, the ACLU wrote: "We oppose this rule because it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent," the letter says. "There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one's Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence."
Obviously, if you can't manage your money, you shouldn't be expected to manage a gun. Please! More obvious is the fact that someone who is getting disability payments due to a mental illness should not have access to guns.
Let us not forget that in the '70s and '80s the ACLU was at the forefront of patients' rights legislation and court cases that emptied our mental institutions. These cases raised the bar significantly for anyone to be committed. The courts ultimately ruled that a finding of mental illness alone was not enough to justify a state's locking a person up against his will and keeping him indefinitely in simple custodial confinement if such persons are dangerous to no one and can live safely in freedom.
What does living safely in freedom mean? Today, for the most part, that means living on the streets. Why? Because most of the mentally ill don't think they are mentally ill. Once out, they refuse their meds and don't go for treatment. When that happens many do become dangerous, and their heartbroken families are simply afraid to keep them or take them in. Research suggests that individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are responsible for approximately 10 percent of all homicides in the United States. For mass killings, the percentage is approximately 33 percent.
Too often families are counseled to avoid having a child classified as mentally ill, and schools try to keep these children in their system. Then, once that child becomes an adult, the school and the family lose control unless the now mentally ill adult voluntarily gives a parent or another adult the responsibility for his or her custody. We now know that after he turned 18, Cruz refused to let the school district continue providing him with the mental health services he had been receiving. These cases go unreported.
It's an urban legend that we have insane people living on the streets because Ronald Reagan closed the mental hospitals. Most mental hospitals were closed simply because they no longer had any patients. Sadly, liberal organizations like the ACLU that worked to get all these mental patients released largely abandoned society's most vulnerable.
Many of the mental-health workers who worked toward this end have admitted their mistake. Many also have admitted their over-reliance on drugs. Now these drugs are part of the larger problem of those who shoot up schools or a workplace.
If you are on psychotropic drugs you cannot join the military, pilot a plane and – in some cases – even drive a car. It makes sense that people on these drugs should be ineligible to buy guns unless re-evaluated.
Politicians, the NRA and the ACLU need to accept this. My guess is the first two will come around. The ACLU is perhaps the bigger culprit and, so far, has escaped the consternation of the general public.