At Townhall: Want to ‘Do Something’ to Stop Mass Shootings?: Use Existing Involuntary Commitment Laws.

Jun 25, 2024 | Gun Free Zones, Mass Public Shootings, op-ed, Red Flag Laws

Nikki Goeser, The CPRC’s Senior Fellow, has a new op-ed at Townhall.

Red flag laws are not necessary to prevent dangerous people from having guns. These laws are unconstitutional, as they put the accused in a position of being assumed guilty until proven innocent. Taking away a citizen’s guns before a hearing occurs in a courtroom is incredibly wrong. If someone is a danger to themself or others, simply taking away guns is not a serious response. That person can still harm or kill and it does not get them the help they need.

If you listen to the mainstream media on a regular basis, you have likely heard talking heads espouse about the importance of red flag laws in preventing what they call “gun-violence.” The far left would have you believe that anyone opposed to red-flag laws must want innocent people to die. They must put their love of guns before innocent lives. This is simply not true.

As a victim of a violent crime myself, where a gun was used by a mentally ill stalker to murder my husband in-front of me, one would think I’d support red flag laws. I do not. Why? Because I believe due process is incredibly important and absolutely must be upheld before anyone has their constitutional rights taken from them. Red flag laws can and are abused by those who seek revenge for any number of reasons, including situations such as divorce, arguments and differences in politics.

Every state in the nation has some type of involuntary commitment law that can be used to remove guns from dangerously mentally ill individuals and get them the help they need. The problem is, people are not using them. Is it because people don’t know about the laws? Or is it because people don’t want to go through the proper legal process of reporting and providing real evidence regarding someone who is dangerous?

We live in a country where there is a stigma that surrounds mental illness. It’s a concerning issue that many people don’t quite know how to address. We walk on eggshells trying not to offend anyone when it comes to those who may have a mental illness. Understandably, there is a general sentiment of empathy for those dealing with a mental illness. Let’s face it, there are plenty of good people in our country that have a mental illness and would never hurt anyone. 

I’m focusing on those who are dangerously mentally ill. Those who are a danger to themselves or others. 

We have all seen the horrifying stories in the news of mass public shootings at the hands of those who are deranged and dangerous. Many of these murderers were mentally ill. The Crime Prevention Research Center shows that 51% of mass public shooters in the last 25 years were seeing mental health care professionals before their attacks. That is 2.5 times the rate in the general public.

So what does one do about a dangerously mentally ill individual? Take for instance the Nashville, Tennessee Covenant School Shooter. This murderer was seeing a psychiatrist and therapist at the time of her deadly attack where she meticulously planned and carried out a mass murder in a highly vulnerable and defenseless gun-free school. This murderer had been under psychiatric care for two decades.

It has been reported that the mental health professionals who treated the shooter were aware of her violent fantasies and her desire to pull off a mass public shooting at a school. So why was she not involuntarily committed? The State of Tennessee provides a form online where an individual can request that a dangerously mentally ill person be involuntarily committed. The person of concern is put on a 72 hour hold, mental health experts are involved in evaluating the individual and a hearing can take place quickly, where a Judge can decide, based on evidence that is clear and convincing, if the defendant needs institutionalization, therapy and confiscation of guns.

It’s hard for me to believe that the mental health professionals who were treating the Covenant School shooter did not realize the danger she posed to herself and others. There is a difference between being supportive of a transgender, mentally ill person and being downright negligent when someone is a danger to themself or others, transgender or not. Mental health professionals have a duty to warn. It appears the Covenant School shooter fell through the cracks. The investigation is still ongoing, so it will be interesting to learn why this dangerously mentally ill person was not institutionalized. Ultimately, the shooter is to blame, but I suspect the blame will be shared by others.

As a victim who also supports the basic human right of self defense and gun ownership, I’m tired of gun-control being the number one political agenda after something awful like this happens. It’s easier for liberals to blame guns than their own mental health professionals and institutions.

It’s time to stop blaming guns and get serious about mental health and the resources that are already available to help protect society from dangerous people.

Nikki Goeser is Senior Fellow of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of “Stalked and Defenseless.

Nikki Goeser, “At Townhall: Want to ‘Do Something’ to Stop Mass Shootings? Use Existing Involuntary Commitment Laws.” Townhall, June 25, 2024.

Nikki Goeser