We’ve posed the question in the past, (From The Publisher, “Will You Do It?” July 2012) and now there’s a new wrinkle — what if it’s your gun that’s to be confiscated? I’m writing this in April and am struggling to contain my anger at state and federal governments, including the law enforcement representing them. A couple of recent events (there may be more) have made the idea of gun-grabbing a very real concern, not just for me, a regular citizen who happens to be retired from law enforcement, but also for you, currently employed citizens in the business. Now that I have your attention, read on….
As part of the NY SAFE Act, the state police have already begun sending letters to gun permit holders demanding they surrender any and all weapons, and their permits are being suspended. Why? Because a provision of the law mandates confiscation if someone has been prescribed psychotropic drugs, as in SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft. Maybe you’re thinking, “So what. People on those meds must be whack jobs.” Wrong!
SSRIs, also known as antidepressants, are just one category of psychotropic drugs and are commonly prescribed to treat depression and anxiety. And while some psychotropic drugs can be cause for concern regarding mood alteration (find the list of them at www.nami.org and learn more at www.nimh.nih.gov), it’s imperative the right people — mental health experts, not politicians or their law enforcement designees — are the ones determining whether you should or shouldn’t have a gun/permit.
According to a couple of 30-year experienced psychotherapists in San Diego, “If they’re taking away guns from SSRI users, they must take them away from anyone who takes a second drink. A second drink effects the brain significantly more than any SSRI.” Further, “They don’t sell antidepressants or mood stabilizers on the streets; they do sell Xanax, Valium, Adderall, etc. The opiates and addictive drugs all have street value. Most psychotropics are not used recreationally and are not a ‘reason’ to take away guns.”
Countless numbers of you (cops) have been prescribed antidepressants, even for the short term, like maybe when you’re going through a divorce, have been involved in an officer-involved shooting or have maybe been to one too many officer funerals. Are you starting to get a little nervous? You should be. You are no different than the average citizen who may need a little help getting through a tough time. How would you feel if you were taken out of the field, had all your guns confiscated (for safe keeping, right?) and told, in essence, you were no longer trustworthy? Hey, wait a minute! What the hell?
Welcome to the new world of the government stomping on your 2nd, 4th and 5th Amendment rights. Hopefully you clearly see the 2nd Amendment violation, but maybe you haven’t thought about the other two. Think of how the state or federal government may receive information about your SSRI prescription. Unless your situation is shared because you pose an eminent threat to yourself or others (think Tarasoff warning), then the only other way your information was obtained was through unauthorized (HIPAA violation) sharing of your medical records. This is a violation of your 4th Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure, as well as your 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
I predict the state of New York is thinking there’s no HIPAA violation, and therefore no civil rights violations, because HIPAA allows for sharing to “…protect the public’s health and well being.” Hmmmm. If they’re so concerned for public health, why don’t they send letters to all registered vehicle owners who have suspended or revoked drivers’ licenses to surrender their vehicles? Why don’t they go after people prescribed AIDS medications to ensure they aren’t infecting others? And they wonder why people don’t seek help for mental health. C’mon.
Delving into private medical records under the guise of protecting others smacks of nothing more than a government fishing expedition. At the very least, a reasonable suspicion should be present to cross reference the list of permit holders against their medical records. Even better, probable cause should be the standard for such an invasion of privacy. It’s the standard you must have to get a warrant to look at someone’s telephone records — and I don’t know of too much deeply personal information found in the average citizen’s phone records.
The insanity doesn’t end there. Right here in Missouri, the state I’ve called home since 2008, we’re finding ourselves in the middle of a shit storm over the sharing of over 163,000 concealed gun permit holders with the federal government. Yup, the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) has done this twice since 2011, and Missouri is a state where such records are allegedly confidential.
In November 2011, an as yet unnamed investigator for the federal Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General requested the list of permit holders to probe whether any of them were fraudulently collecting disability benefits for mental illness. If beneficiaries’ names were on the gun permit list, it could be an indicator they either weren’t ill or shouldn’t have the permit. I know what you’re thinking — thank you Captain Obvious — see previously mentioned fishing expedition. Apparently the MSHP sent the requested information on discs to the investigator, but are now claiming the investigator wasn’t able to open the files and he discarded them. Yeah, right.
By Suzi Huntington