Addressing the mentally ill, gun rights in America

Published 8:29 pm Saturday, August 29, 2015

In 1896 the US Supreme Court, with one dissent,  Justice Harlan’s eloquent dissent, decreed the existence of a “the” Blacks and denied this “them” the benefits of democracy, decreed that the constitutional benefits of democracy accrued only to white Americans.  We are living with the legacy of that decision to this day.

In 2008 and again in 2010 another US Supreme Court decreed, without dissent, the existence of a “the” mentally ill. The legacy of their words lives with us to this day. They married, in one short phrase, “felons and the mentally ill,” and unchallenged by any legal minds, the phrase has thrived.

Can one say that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a bigot, can one say that of any of the other members of the current US Supreme Court for having directed that phrase into Supreme Court Law? Can one say Clarence Thomas, who once endured “the” Blacks as common exchange, is a bigot for having advanced another version of that terribly bigoted phrase? Can one say that of the remainder of the judges on that court? One can. I do.

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The current US Supreme Court says “the” mentally ill may not own guns, that laws of due process, in their minds, do not apply to the 20 percent of Americans dealing with a mental illness. They, of course, err: No person, well or ill, may be denied a right in the absence of due process.

Who among that large number of people, that 20 percent, may be denied access to firearms is very carefully spelled out in state law. In general terms there are two disqualifications: Having been declared a danger to oneself or others, or having been involuntarily committed by a court of law. It is the court hearing that decides, it is carefully articulated state laws that decide.

Are we presently careful enough in keeping records, or even sharing records of who specifically those persons are? We are not.

We must become so.

Harold A. Maio

Daily Leader reader in Ft. Myers, Florida