I usually write about computer-related technology and how we live with it. Today, though, I'm writing about a different kind of technology: Guns.
Guns are certainly technological devices, and how we live with them is crucial, especially when it comes to safety.
We've heard lots of discussions recently about how we might live more safely with guns. People have talked about making it harder to get guns, about increasing gun owner liability, about limiting the kinds of guns that can be sold, and about being more selective about who may own a gun.
This last idea -- being more selective about who may own a gun -- has been promoted by, among others, the NRA, who have suggested that we need to screen out potential gun owners with certain forms of mental illness. Screen for those people, don't let them buy or own guns, and we'll be safer -- so goes this argument.
The argument ignores some important facts. It ignores the requirement for confidentiality in medical treatment; it ignores the psychiatric consensus that the mentally ill are not more likely to become violent than others; and it ignores the difficulty -- the near-impossibility, really -- of predicting who among the mentally ill will become violent.
But let's, for a moment, accept the idea that keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill should be an important part of our overall effort to decrease gun violence.
I submit that if we accept this idea, then we must insist upon routine mental health testing for gun owners.
People don't only develop mental illnesses prior to owning, or trying to own, a gun; mental illness can and does develop in people who already own guns. If keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill is going to be a significant part of our efforts to control gun violence, then we must regularly test gun owners for mental illness, and we must take away guns from those owners who can be identified as mentially ill.
Now, you may have guessed that I don't agree with this argument. I'm simply taking it to its logical conclusion.
So, readers -- if you agree with the NRA's position that we need to focus on keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, then will you also support routine mential health testing of gun owners?