From The Guardian (!) of all places.
For once, science is on the side of the National Rifle Association and Donald Trump, according to prominent experts on mental health and violence.
A cohort of researchers and civil rights advocates say congressional Republicanswere right to roll back an Obama-era rule that would have barred certain mentally impaired recipients of social security benefits from owning guns.
The Obama rule “is fundamentally not a rational policy”, said Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatrist who directs the law, ethics and psychiatry division at Columbia University. “It’s not a rule that would be very likely to make us safer.”
The policy, finalized in the last weeks of the Obama administration, would have disqualified from gun ownership an estimated 75,000 people who have mental illnesses or disabilities and are assigned a representative to manage their social security benefits.
The people targeted by the rule “are not a particularly high-risk group for violent behavior”, Appelbaum said.
Advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for Mental Health, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and the federal government’s own advisory group, the National Council on Disability, opposed the measure, arguing that it deprived Americans of a constitutional right without due process.
“This is one of these times where the progressive politics du jour and the science – and, I think, the legal analysis – diverge,” said Jeffrey Swanson, a leading researcher on gun violence and mental health at Duke University.
“The NRA, on this thing, has found itself on the side of science,” he said.
“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 ACLU argued in a letter supporting the rollback of the rule.
The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law said the rule “creates a false sense that meaningful action has been taken to address gun violence, and detracts from potential prevention efforts targeting actual risks”.
Swanson, a mental health expert who has conducted groundbreaking research on the impact of different gun violence prevention laws, criticized the Democrats’ fierce defense of the rule, arguing that it undermined the effort to build political consensus around gun control policies that actually have research evidence behind them.
“It’s a real step backwards in the messaging that I’ve been trying to do for years to say, ‘The vast majority of people with mental illnesses are never going to be violent, and to make that assumption is harmful,’” he said..
Being hailed by the NRA and Breitbart was a new experience for him, Swanson said, and somewhat disconcerting.
But, he said, what it meant to have “integrity as researchers” was to “take a stand for risk-based, fair policies”.
“Politics is politics, and sometimes you have to take the position that your team is taking, but that’s not my job.”