Shoot­ing raises ques­tions about gun rights for men­tally ill

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - COMMENTARY - — The Dal­las Morn­ing News

It’s time. Time to talk about the men­tally ill and their Sec­ond Amend­ment rights.

It was time to talk about it back in 2007, af­ter the Virginia Tech mas­sacre.

It was time to talk about it in De­cem­ber 2012, af­ter Adam Lanza emerged from his mother’s base­ment with an arm­ful of weapons and made his bloody way through Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary.

It was time to talk about it last year, when Omar Ma­teen, with his his­tory of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and scru­tiny by the FBI, opened fire at the Pulse night­club in Or­lando with guns he legally bought only two weeks be­fore.

For years it’s been time to talk about the Sec­ond Amend­ment and its lim­its.

Now it’s time, once more, in the wake of last Fri­day’s bizarre and deadly mass shoot­ing at Ter­mi­nal 2 in the Fort Laud­erdale, Fla., air­port.

Five more peo­ple were killed Fri­day, six more in­jured.

Once again the shooter turns out to have been very much on law en­force­ment’s radar. Less than two months be­fore the shoot­ing, New Jersey na­tive Este­ban San­ti­ago walked into an FBI of­fice in An­chor­age, Alaska, where he was liv­ing, and asked for help.

He told agents the CIA was con­trol­ling his mind and he was be­ing forced to watch Is­lamic State pro­pa­ganda videos. Lo­cal po­lice were called, and they con­fis­cated his pis­tol and am­mu­ni­tion. They checked San­ti­ago into a lo­cal psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal, where he stayed for four days.

His brother told re­porters he has no rea­son to think San­ti­ago re­ceived any fur­ther treat­ment. But a month later, af­ter the FBI de­ter­mined he broke no laws by his strange be­hav­ior, An­chor­age po­lice re­turned his pis­tol to him. Why? Why would he get his gun back with no fur­ther eval­u­a­tions or treat­ment?

We do know San­ti­ago’s mental state had de­te­ri­o­rated since re­turn­ing from Iraq.

His fam­ily at­tests to that, and so does his mil­i­tary record, which in­cludes a de­mo­tion for un­sat­is­fac­tory con­duct last year, and an even­tual dis­charge. The lo­cal po­lice record shows that his girl­friend at the time re­ported he flew into a rage and broke down the bath­room door dur­ing a fight.

He wasn’t pros­e­cuted for that out­burst, and we can as­sume he did not lose his right to keep and bear arms. It’s time to ask why that is. Of course, not ev­ery Amer­i­can with mental ill­ness should be barred from own­ing and keep­ing firearms. It’s likely in the vast ma­jor­ity of cases such ill­ness does not ren­der gun own­er­ship dan­ger­ous.

And San­ti­ago’s story is not just about guns.

He needed help long be­fore he en­tered the FBI of­fice in Novem­ber. Many, many vet­er­ans do.

But it’s time, past time, for us to start ask­ing more ques­tions about gun rights when the own­ers’ mental state, es­pe­cially com­bined with a his­tory of vi­o­lence, sug­gests they aren’t sta­ble.

Be­fore the next shoot­ing re­minds us of our fail­ure to act.

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