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Surprising Science

Mentally Ill Reclaiming Gun Rights

Since 2007, legislative concessions won by the National Rifle Association have made it easier for the mentally ill to reclaim their right to bear arms, sometimes with terrible consequences. 

What’s the Latest Development?

During legislative negotiations following the Virginia Tech school shooting in 2007, the N.R.A. won concessions allowing the mentally ill to eventually reclaim their right to purchase guns. It seems the stipulation was intended for veterans who, because of mental injuries sustained during battle, had lost the right to carry arms. Now, more states are returning the right of gun ownership to the mentally ill, but information sharing between federal and state agencies is lax and many judges are unaware of a claimant’s mental health history despite federal law prohibiting the “mentally defective” from owning guns. 

What’s the Big Idea?

While the nation celebrates its independence this weekend, gun ownership has become one right seemingly wrapped up in what it means to be American. It is otherwise difficult to explain the muted legislative action after each tragedy in which an innocent person is gunned down, despite the public’s outpouring of remorse after each occurrence. The degree to which gun ownership is considered a right makes regulation difficult because distinctions become muddled in minutia, making them extremely difficult for the legal system to execute. 


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