Gun Control, Mental Illness and Aspergers. The new Witch Hunt

I have sat back quietly watching this new gun control debate. I have listened to both sides and read every news story I can find, and I am disappointed.

Before I go much further let me make one thing very clear; I promised myself that I will not get into the control debate on any forum that focuses on Aspergers and Autism. My intention with this post is not to pick sides. Like everyone else, I have my personal views on gun control. However this is not the place for those views. This is a place to discuss the things that affect people on the spectrum. This is a place where I share my views as someone who is on the spectrum.

There is a lot of talk about ‘mentally ill‘ people in the new gun control debate. There is a fear spreading that the mentally ill are unpredictable and often dangerous. This fear is reminiscent of the days we locked away people in mental institutions. Are we regressing in that direction now in the name of gun control? More importantly, how do we define mental illness in this debate?

A bill in the Georgia Senate (SB 34)would make it illegal for mentally incompetent or addicted people to own a firearm. Think about this; addicted people, who are they targeting here? Drug dealers? No, the bill is worded in such a way that ANY addiction makes you incompetent .. if you had a DUI in high school 30 years ago- you would now labeled an addicted person, according to this bill. If the definition of an addicted person has such vague definition in this bill, who would be deemed mentally incompetent? The person who saw a marriage councilor? The rape victim who saw a therapist? The Police officer who witnessed terrible crimes and need to see a councilor? The kid diagnosed with Aspergers in school?

We are walking on dangerous ground when we use blanket terms such as ‘mentally ill‘. Not just in the gun control debate, but in any form of mature conversation. In a politically correct word where we never use the word ‘retard‘ we are quickly turning mental health into the new racism. The news media, the politicians, the NRA and the Brady campaign are all  painting mental illness with a broad brush in an effort to avoid the real issues at hand.

My fear in all of this rhetoric is that to many people will get labeled as dangerous mental nut cases. As if my little Aspie doesn’t have to worry about being bullied at school already. There are news stories of children being suspended from school for everything from Hello Kitty bubble guns Link to story here,  to an L shaped piece of paper that looked like it may have been gun shaped- Link to story here. Add the news media trying so hard to paint the latest mass murderer as having Aspergers. (to many conflicting stories on this one). What happens when a little Aspie plays Cops and Robbers and points his finger at another child? Will we be outraged when he is arrested, or will we be satisfied that another crazy person is off the streets?

My fear is how quickly we all want to find a bad guy in this gun control argument. I am worried about the modern-day witch hunt I see happening in America.

Where do we draw the line when we start going after the mentally ill?

1212mentalhealth-RW

1212mentalhealth-RW (Photo credit: Robbie Wroblewski)

Do we just go after those crazy people who live on the streets? Surely they are all crazy just like Jim Carrey.
Do we go after people who are bipolar? Sorry Vincent van Gogh but you have to go!
Do we target the Drunks? Yeah we should have locked up Ernest Hemingway!
Maybe we just target those nerdy kids who like to play with computers in their parents garage. Yeah, that’s it! We should have locked away Steve Jobs back in the day.
What’s that? oh of course we should really target those people who suffer from depression, you know people like Abraham Lincoln.
Oh wait, if you watch the news, it is those creepy people with Aspergers. You know the people like Dan Aykroyd, and Albert Einstein!

Seriously….

The truth is simple; there are bad people in the world. Bad people do bad things. Sometimes they do horrible things that the rest of us cannot understand.

Vilifying the mentally ill in such a broad term makes about as much sense as slavery and saying women can’t vote.
Saying that people with Aspergers are mentally ill is just as ignorant as saying all Hispanics are gang members.

The irony here is that The clinical diagnosis for Aspergers syndrome will be removed in the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association psychiatrists’ diagnostic guide. Will that be enough? Will they change their mind about this now?

I have Aspergers  I process things a little differently than most people. I sometimes feel awkward in social situations. I am not ill. I am not crazy. I am not broken. I am just as unique as you are.

Sometimes being different is a GOOD thing.