Reacting to the shooting at Fort Hood on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner reiterated a popular NRA talking point: "There’s no question that those with mental health issues should be prevented from owning weapons or being able to purchase weapons." Those suffering the same diagnosed illnesses as the shooter — depression and anxiety — might be surprised by Boehner's willingness to take away their Second Amendment rights.
Ivan Lopez, the alleged shooter, was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder at the base, where he was stationed and lived with his wife. According to CNN, Lopez "was undergoing a variety of treatments for conditions including depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances," according to Army Secretary John McHugh. Lopez "was prescribed drugs that included Ambien" and "was fully examined last month by a psychiatrist."
An estimated one-in-10 Americans suffers from depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That's about 31 million people, skewed told older people and women. The National Institutes of Health puts those suffering from "major depressive disorder" at the lower figure of 14.8 million. As for anxiety? The NIH says that 40 million Americans suffer from that.
Even if Lopez had been diagnosed with PTSD, that's still sweeping up 7.7 million Americans — 2.5 percent of the country. Who John Boehner, it seems, doesn't think should be allowed to have a gun.
That's almost certainly not actually what he believes. His comments, as The Hill's Russell Berman reports, came in the middle of an event at the Capitol. After saying there was "no question" that people with mental illness shouldn't be allowed to buy or own guns, he went on: "we need to continue to look at to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them."
In the wake of the Newtown massacre, the NRA reiterated its call for one of the few gun control measures it supports: a database of the "actively" mentally ill, which gun sellers could use to screen buyers. Such databases exist, but usually with standards that are far, far more rigorous than anything Lopez was close to manifesting. Current federal law prohibits those who've been committed to an institution or officially determined to be "mentally defective" from buying a gun.
That wasn't Lopez. This is the problem with using mental health as the screen for gun ownership: for many of those who commit acts of random violence, those acts are the first manifestations of more serious mental health issues. And, furthermore, as the millions of depressed and anxious Americans can attest, only a tiny, tiny percentage of those with mental illness — mild or strong — would ever commit such acts.
But if Boehner is willing, at last, to support dramatic gun control efforts, there are almost certainly people on the other side of the aisle who'd be happy to work with him.