In the middle of the gun control debate, there is a question that seldom makes its way into headlines: should we not pay more attention to mental health when talking about firearm ownership? How comfortable are we with allowing a sociopath, someone with no capacity to feel empathy for others, to legally purchase a weapon? The call to reform the rights of gun ownership is gaining ground, and while both sides are vehement in their stance, perhaps America should consider a middle ground, and center it on mental health.
Anti-Social Personality Disorder is defined as having a persistent pattern of disregarding the rights of others. People with APD have a "pervasive and persistent disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others". It is also a truth that people with APD are not all criminals, many are productive members of society. And the same laws that allow people to purchase a gun also grant that same right to people with anti-social personality disorder.
Consider the classic fallacy of a non-sequitur: Just because A implies B, doesn't mean B implies A. For example, "All cars have wheels, therefore all things with wheels are cars" is a non-sequitur and a false conclusion. In this same light, we cannot say that just because all mass murderers are psychopaths, that therefore all psychopaths are mass murderers. This would not only be false, but also add to mental health stigma, a pervasive issue in our society we want to eliminate.
However, we also cannot ignore the fact that people who are mass murderers are often sociopathic and exhibit the full criteria for one or more DSM-5 personality disorders (anti-social personality disorder being the most common). Given this, does there not come a point in reason and logic where it makes sense for a society that someone who has no ability to feel empathy for other people, and who has a blatant disregard for laws and social norms, therefore poses a danger to that society if allowed to own firearms? By what logic can we as a society use in order to grant and defend a sociopath a right to purcahse a gun?
Devin Kelley walked into a church and started killing people indiscriminately, including children. He has previously showed numerous public signs of being a sociopath, including posting an irresponsible and profane picture of his AR-15 to Facebook before the killings. What has happened that we as a society are granting the "right" to a person with issues like this to own that kind of weapon?
Most of us realize there is a problem in America as mass murder is on an extreme rise. One group says "Do Nothing" and the other group says "Ban Guns". Doing nothing waits for the next mass murderer to strike and is irresponsible. Simply banning guns (as Chicago has done) is naive- it strips lawful and moral citizens of their rights while further empowering criminals. Cities like Chicago give us empirical proof that simply banning guns as a 'solution' is foolish and does not work. And yet doing nothing is to bury our collective head in the sand. We need something a bit more intelligent, something that focuses more on the people committing the acts, although there is a strong logical case one can make that an AR-15 is not a "self-defense" weapon.
Perhaps sensible gun legislation should take into account the mental health of the person seeking access to owning a firearm. And while our politicians endlessly debate each extreme point of view, middle ground solutions go by the wayside as the issue becomes one of politics, rather than an issue for all of us to rally around together. At some point, we can only hope that we as a society will put ourselves first, rather than what's in line with our political party.
The gun control debate will rage on, and while we focus on the weapons themselves instead of the people owning them, we may be only harming ourselves in the end. Any time a person who exhibits sociopathic tendencies obtains access to an AR-15 style weapon, that represents something broken, and something that needs to be addressed. Most law abiding citizens, who are healthy contributors to society should have a right to purchase and own a gun, there is nothing inherently dangerous or morally wrong with this. And yet, somewhere in this "right to bear arms" we also allow sociopaths like Devin Kelley to buy weapons as well, and this is something that should not be. Whatever the solution we come up with, Devin Kelley, who showed clear signs of anti-social personality disorder, should have never had legal access to an AR-15, or any gun for that matter.
Arthur Hunter is a computer programmer and co-founder of Theravive. He has been in the tech industry for over 20 years, with multiple Microsoft certifications. He has a love and passion for the intersection of technology and mental health and how the gadgets we use and the time we spend on them play a part in our mental well being, for better or worse. Together with his wife in 2007 they founded Theravive, which currently has thousands of licensed therapists and psychologists. He enjoys writing on occasion, reporting on mental health and technology. You can reach Arthur at 360-350-8627 or write him at webadmin - at - theravive.com.