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Psychotropic medications and school shootings: Preventing another Sandy Hook

By       Message Gregory Patin     Permalink
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Americans and their leaders need to use common sense in dealing with this issue, not knee-jerk reactions. Sensible gun control laws are already in place and a few more may not necessarily infringe on 2nd amendment rights, but the link between psychotropic medications and gun violence must be acknowledged and addressed in any new legislation.

Atypical psychotropic and SSRI medications are what really need more regulation. Drug companies need to improve the black box warnings or face liability if a patient commits a violent crime due to a side effect that is not listed. Psychiatrists, psychologists and physicians need better information on these medications. Patients that are prescribed these medications could be entered into a national database.

With all legally registered gun owners and all mentally ill patients on medications in national databases, the information could then be cross-referenced. A regulation that no prescriptions for psychotropic medications can be filled if firearms are kept at the residence of the patient could then be enacted and enforced.

That still leaves Americans a choice: Either have your guns or your meds, but not both. If a gun owner wants themselves or a member of their household to be treated with psychotropic medications, then they should have to remove their guns from the residence or opt for inpatient care. Inpatient care could be made more accessible in these cases through an expansion of Medicaid.

The same regulations that are in place for automobile ownership could also be a model for firearm ownership. Every firearm could be registered, licensed and details such as where the firearm is kept stored in a national database. States could have the option of yearly renewals with updated information.

Mandatory minimum liability insurance could be a condition of gun ownership just like most states require for automobile owners. Gun owners do not seem to have a problem with those requirements in order to own and operate a motor vehicle. There should be no reason to have a problem with that regarding firearms either, since guns are not as important to own as a car.

Law-abiding firearm owners in a good state of mental health, with no one on psychotropic medications in their household, would not be subject to any "gun-grabbing." They can have assault weapons with high capacity magazines, as long they have liability insurance on their weapons. Most gun-owners would to retain all of their 2nd amendment rights -- it would just cost them more money to own firearms.

People on psychotropic medications would then have more difficultly accessing firearms, which could eliminate spontaneous actions, just as the waiting period for handguns does. Liability would keep more guns under lock and key or at least carefully monitored by owners. Choosing between firearms and medications may also provide an incentive for patients and their families to seek real therapy that in many cases has proven to be more effective than medications. Two new laws -- two problems solved.

While laws like that would raise compliance issues, law enforcement does not seem to have a problem with enforcing similar firearm restrictions in cases of domestic violence, or with anyone on probation or parole. Law enforcement can and will verify compliance in those cases and if firearms are not removed from the residence voluntarily, law officers will come by and pick them up.

Of course, gun lobbyists and pharmaceutical lobbyists would scream bloody murder on Capitol Hill, but surely there would be some insurance company lobbyists behind this sort of initiative. Gun owners would also complain about the higher cost of ownership, but unlike an outright ban, it still leaves them a free market choice with their rights intact.

What is most important, however, is that any new approach in terms of preventive measures is worth a try if it does not infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens, does not lead to further militarization of public institutions and prevents the death of even one child or teacher like the 26 that died last week in Connecticut.


Madison Independent Examiner - Stricter Gun Control Laws are not the Solution

Congressional Research Service (pdf)

LA Times

New York Daily News

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Gregory Patin is a free-lance writer residing in Madison, WI. He earned a BA in political science from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and a MS in IT management from Colorado Tech. He is politically independent and not affiliated with either (more...)

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