The Corner

Law & the Courts

Senator Chris Murphy: Congress Making It Easier for the Mentally Ill to Commit Murder

In opposing Republicans’ decision to rescind a federal rule preventing the mentally handicapped from obtaining a gun, Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) yesterday equated mental illness with a tendency toward violence:

The one thing Congress has done on guns since Sandy Hook is to make it easier for very mentally ill people to get guns. Think about being a parent in Sandy Hook and knowing that the only thing that Congress has done since that massacre is to make it easier for people like Adam Lanza [Sandy Hook shooter] to get their hands on assault weapons. This is outrageous.

Senator Murphy has repeatedly used the Sandy Hook tragedy in the state he represents to push for federal gun laws, but this is an especially disturbing appropriation. The Obama administration’s regulation gave the federal government power to take away a constitutional right without due process, and on the dubious grounds that those who cannot complete financial forms without help are prone to murder. For this reason, the ACLU opposed the rule, contending that:

It advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent. There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence. The rule further demonstrates the damaging phenomenon of “spread,” or the perception that a disabled individual with one area of impairment automatically has additional, negative and unrelated attributes. Here, the rule automatically conflates one disability-related characteristic, that is, difficulty managing money, with the inability to safely possess a firearm.

In addition to the ACLU, the coalition that opposed the rule includes a vast array of mental-health charities, a host of doctors, and a series of disability advocacy groups. In taking the position he has, Senator Murphy is casting them all as irresponsible tools of the NRA.

As Charles Cooke pointed out on the Corner, even President Obama insisted that there was no direct link between mental illness and violence, and his administration was keen to insist that its rule did not imply such a connection. Senator Murphy has taken the opposite approach, choosing instead to equate peaceful and law-abiding Americans with “people like Adam Lanza” — and to so in the interest of naked political posturing. For shame.