Why Mental Health Background Checks Are Not the Solution to Gun Violence

Why Mental Health Background Checks Are Not the Solution to Gun Violence

As gun rights advocates have been quick to point out, nothing in Congress’s failed spring effort to extend background checks would have stopped Alexis’s ability to purchase the weapon he used to launch the slaughter of 12 innocent people starting their workday at a military installation.

This is the great problem at the heart of efforts to turn improved mental health reporting into our primary form of gun control. More than half of Americans experience one or more mental illnesses over the course of their lives, and around 26 percent of Americans over age 18 each year experience at least one, primarily anxiety disorders and mood disorders like depression. The overwhelming majority of them are no danger to anyone at all. But with so substantial a portion of the country going through bouts of one thing or another over the course of their lives, the idea that any federal database could capture enough information to encompass every one who might one day be a threat anywhere is akin to hoping for a government staff of precogs.

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