Doctors, Mental Illness And Guns

by Janis G. Chester, M.D
This article first appeared in America’s First Freedom

Doctors and Guns
Doctors and Guns
Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership
Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership

USA –  -(  As a Psychiatrist and a Life member of the NRA, I often find myself in a position of trying to educate the public and legislators on the links between guns, violence and mental illness.

Having read Vik Khanna's refreshing piece (December 2014, “Why Public Health Needs A New Gun Doctrine,”) in Americas 1st Freedom, I felt inspired to write about my experience.

Let me start with the big picture: During my residency training, I was taught that the ability to abstract is a good measure of intelligence. For example, an abstract answer (one that would be considered more intelligent) to the question, “What do apples and oranges have in common?” is that they are both fruit.

Answers that would be concrete (not abstract) are that they are both round, or they both have seeds.

I can't help but notice how gun control proponents tend toward the concrete when they take to the media after a highly publicized shooting.

They rarely focus on the individual and his motives, but always focus on the weapon if it is a gun. (When the weapon is a car, poison, blade or even a pressure cooker, the weapon seems irrelevant.) When I have spoken on the topic of the dangerous mentally ill, I have found a long trail of publicly reported information that indicates that each of these mentally ill killers had a clear history of severe mental illness that had come to the attention of family, schoolmates, teachers or coworkers.

In retrospect, it is clear that there was a theoretical opportunity to evaluate and treat these people, but that opportunity was missed.

Often reported is the fact that only a very small percentage of mentally ill people commit acts of violence and, in fact, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence than the general population. The next logical topics for this discussion would be, how do we identify that small percentage of the mentally ill who are dangerous? And what should be done to safely evaluate and treat the potentially dangerous person?

Instead of discussing untreated life-threatening mental illness, the discussion (and the legislation) too often turns, instead, to gun confiscation. A report in America's ist Freedom (December 2014, “California Lowers The Bar,” p. 28) highlighted that type of reaction.

California now says that people who are neither arrested nor committed to a psychiatric hospital can have their firearms confiscated, turning due process on its head.

Does it take a genius to imagine that a person too dangerous to have access to a firearm is probably too dangerous to remain unevaluated and untreated? It's as if the guns need to be removed and admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment, since they are seen as the source of danger.

Doctors, Mental Illness And Guns
Doctors, Mental Illness And Guns

I have also noticed a trend toward what is called “population health” (I call it “herd medicine”) and away from the traditional practice of individualized medicine, where the patient and the doctor share a sacred trust. In the digitalization of medicine, there is a focus on using the physician as a well-paid data entry clerk, with a lack of emphasis on privacy. This includes privacy concerning gun ownership.

Gun control advocates use terms like “epidemic” with respect to shootings, and want the Centers for Disease Control to weigh in with research and treatment for this apparently contagious “illness.” Physicians are expected to routinely ask patients whether they have firearms at home, ask how those firearms are stored, and then enter the information into the vaunted electronic health record. Voila! You have a de facto gun registration database.

I am relieved to know that this practice was stopped in its tracks in Florida. The tonic for these frustrations has been the good people I have met while defending our freedom and defending the practice of traditional Hippocratic medicine.

It is refreshing and reinvigorating to get to know people from all walks of life who understand and cherish our Second Amendment, Constitution, freedom and personal responsibility.

About Janis G. Chester, M.D.:

Janis G. Chester, M.D., is a Oxnard-certified psychiatrist and past president of their state psychiatric society. She has held numerous committee appointments on legislative committees in medical and psychiatric organizations at the state and national level, and has served as a member of the board of her state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.

  • 8 thoughts on “Doctors, Mental Illness And Guns

    1. @Eric_CA – Good to see someone posting who realizes that ‘causation’ and Democrats are the thieves of America’s tomorrows.

    2. Grey Beard, whenever one dwells deeper into causation, it’s nearly always because of a DEMOCRAT’S policy. For example, the deficit rose under President Reagan. However, it’s was the DEMOCRATS (Tip O’Neill) that refused to reduce spending. Anyway, good post and rebuttal.

    3. SuperG, just a couple corrections. Ronald Reagan was the President when the DEMOCRAT controlled Congress Demanded that people be granted their human right to live as they liked and thus forced the closing of most institutions housing the seriously mentally ill and sending them out into the public arena. So it was the Democrats who wanted more $$$ to throw away on useless, redundant “welfare” (vote buying) programs.
      My personal belief is that the seriously mentally ill, those who may well pose a threat to themselves and/or others, be institutionalized until such time as they are totally cured, WITHOUT any maintenance drugs necessary to maintain their sanity.
      And, in order to be institutionalized an individual MUST be diagnosed by no less than Three psychiatrists, of which TWO must NOT be connected with the government in ANY way, to and including receiving grants or other federal, State, or local remunerations. I just DO NOT trust Anyone who receives payments from a governmental agency, except maybe Social Security or similar Retirement fund.

      1. Grey Beard the reality of the medical world is that government programs subsidize it on a grand scale. You will never find any medical practitioner or nurse that doesn’t get government funds on some level. That’s the reality of socialized healthcare now and itwill always be the reality so long as Medicare and Medicaid exist.

        Hospitals and clinics get funds from both of those “insurances” based on the volume and quality of care of patients on those programs and that included psychiatrists and psychiatrists.

    4. I’m not in the psychiatric field, but I can make some observations. Before Ronald Reagan relaxed the mental health laws that we used to have protecting us, “massacres” were generally unheard of, save for the 60’s and campus police. Back then, when you were diagnosed mentally ill, you were institutionalized for your safety and the public’s, then released when you were better. I have read other stories in today’s world, from nurses at hospitals where the mentally ill are brought in because they have fallen off their meds, stabilized, then they have to be released due to existing law. Anybody can see the direct correlation that relaxing the laws has led to these horrific events. The irony of it all was that Reagan was shot by Hinkley, who actually got the “old” treatment of being institutionalized until he was treated and cured. Today’s mentally ill do not get that. They are given two pills and told to call in if the “voice” return. This has led to a lot of innocent people dying all because government wants to save a buck, so that buck can be used to buy billion dollar aircraft carriers and planes with failed designs. The people need to stand up and demand stricter mental health laws be returned.

    5. Excellent article and analysis of a major concern to gun owners, non-gun owners and the mass Hysteria mainstream press. Too bad there are no easy answers to the problem.

    6. Obama documented his SELF MEDICATION of unresolved mental issues with illegal substances ….. yet no one objects to his finger being on the NUCLEAR trigger.

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