September 20, 2013
This undated photo provided by Kristi Suthamtewakul shows AaronAlexis. Officials say Alexis, an information technology employee with a defense contractor, used a valid pass to get into the Washington Navy Yard building where he opened fire Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, killing 12 people. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Kristi Suthamtewakul)
Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Kristi Suthamtewakul)

Another mass shooting, and another round of arguments about how to go about preventing the next one. But this time the usual arguments–we need better access to mental health care, we need more restrictions on gun ownership, we need more armed guards around–don’t quite work, since in some form Aaron Alexis got around all of them. He had VA access to mental health care, he passed background checks, and he shot the armed guards at the Navy Yard.

Charles Krauthammer, in his column, draws upon his former life as a hospital psychiatrist to propose another solution: Authorize doctors to detain and drug people who show signs of severe mental illness, even if they aren’t currently threatening anyone harm. Authorities recognized that Alexis was being paranoid and delusional, but felt it was “safer” (for him, for the rights of the mentally ill, for their jobs) to leave him alone.

And it was not.

Whatever choices we make, people who have done no harm will either be deprived of their Second Amendment rights, or forcibly imprisoned and medicated, or killed as a result. No wonder we keep talking about the solutions rather than doing anything.

Iconoblaster gives the civil liberties-Libertarian arguments against Krauthammer’s recommended treatment. It’s a big expansion of the powers of the state, flawed as states are:

Now we have the government shrink evaluating whether the problem is mental illness, and if so, the severity of that illness. In the process it will be decided whether to drug the individual or not. Some of these professionals will be very conscientious and objective, but they will still be wrong sometimes. It is not unfair to say that every psychological diagnosis is, at least in part, a guess. And at the extreme end of things, I am suspicious of the government having the power to forcibly institutionalize its citizens for mental illness. We were told that the term “psychiatric hospital”, in the Soviet Union (for example) might really mean “political prison.” Even if things never came to THAT point here, this is a dangerous power to entrust to government.

wdc1982 would restrict gun purchases only for the mentally ill:

Tag [severely mentally ill people] in NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] so they can’t purchase. Works for felons.

Seasalt answers that automatically taking away gun rights will discourage people from seeking treatment:

And [de-incentivizes] the disabled from seeking help. Bravo.

jimb thinks Krauthammer’s argument ultimately leads to socialized medicine:

Dr. Krauthammer speaks truth. “That’s what a compassionate society does. It would no more abandon this man to fend for himself than it would a man suffering a stroke.”
Yes, quality, comprehensive health care (including in-patient and out-patient mental health and supportive care) for all Americans. No more using jails and the streets as substitutes for residential care for the mentally ill and addicted.

Crickey7 says that pre-emptive hospitalization has been rule unconstitutional:

In O’Connor v. Donaldson, SCOTUS ruled that a state cannot constitutionally confine a non-dangerous individual who is capable of surviving safely in freedom by themselves or with the help of willing and responsible family members or friends.

Well that would seem to settle it, except for the part about proving that someone will or will not be dangerous in the future. PostScript is sorry to put all this on you guys on a gorgeous (in DC) Friday afternoon. But she can at least end with some witty comments! So she will.

A-pox-on-thee worries about confining a large class of people based on what a small minority of them might do:

But not all or even a majority of schizophrenics commit mass murder. Do we doom them all to a life of suspicious scrutiny by the government on the slim chance he or she will kill? Isn’t that a slippery slope to tracking everyone whose “sanity” we — or more to the point, the government — find troubling?

SmarterthantheaverageBear1 fears such treatment will only validate paranoia:

Goodness, that’s a very common fear of the mentally ill-they think the government is trying to control them. My brother thought the voices he heard came from the FBI. They don’t respond we’ll to pressure.

Which paradoxically, Buddydog snarks, would make it harder to diagnose irrationality:

Well at least if the government IS tracking them, they won’t be considered paranoid any more.