WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Dead in Delaware: Legislation to bar firearms from those deemed dangerously mentally ill

Even as another school shooting story was leading national newscasts (Roswell, New Mexico: 12-year-old in custody after two students shot in middle school), Delaware state senators in Dover were quashing any attempt to resurrect limited gun control legislation.

(Not that this legislation would've made any difference in the Roswell episode. Interesting though: An unarmed teacher persuaded the kid to give up his weapon!)

The legislation, from Attorney-General Beau Biden's office, was intended to give authorities some means to keep guns away from those considered dangerously mentally ill.

The state Senate had dealt the legislation a stunning defeat last year, after it had cleared the state House. Under Senate rules, the measure had to be resurrected within three legislative working days.

It didn't happen -- even in the Democratic Party-dominated, upper chamber -- demonstrating the raw power of 2nd Amendment absolutists.

Who could logically oppose legislation to keep weapons out of the hands of those deemed dangerously mentally ill? Some folks apparently feared the coercive aspects of the legislation -- that mental health providers would be REQUIRED to report a troubled patient to police, to avoid legal liability. With the danger of liability hanging over their heads, mental health professionals might err on the side of caution. People who happened to own guns - but with troubling personal issues - might spurn ever seeking counseling for fear they'd be reported.

Legal gun owners feared if their weapons were seized, they'd have trouble getting them returned.

Still, it is telling that even the National Rifle Association took a neutral position on the legislation after the NRA successfully pushed for a change in wording: The burden of proof was raised for declaring a person dangerous. "Preponderance of evidence" became "clear & convincing evidence". But even that was insufficient for the 2nd Amendment absolutists.

Paranoia? The fear that authorities could use such a law as a wedge to pressure folks with political views outside the mainstream?

At least one legislator, Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson (R-Milford) complained Attorney General Beau Biden never appeared at Legislative Hall to personally press for the legislation.

Biden's people insisted the A.G. was dealing with Wilmington's street violence.

Bluntly, would it have made very much difference if Beau Biden had made personal appeals in Dover? I rather doubt it, especially considering the votes to resurrect the legislation fell far short.

But this broaches what is left unsaid: By all accounts, Beau Biden's medical condition is taking an obvious physical toll. The Attorney General continues to avoid major public appearances and all media interviews. Staff members speak for him in press releases, e-mails, and interviews. One assumes Beau Biden is taking one day at a time, physically and mentally. (Running for Governor, as had been widely assumed? Difficult to imagine!)

But again, although it's highly doubtful Beau Biden could have saved the mental health / gun control legislation by appearing personally at Legislative Hall, this latest episode underscores how the A.G.'s mysterious medical status may be having an effect on public policy.

Posted at 8:02am on January 15, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jan 15, 2014 8:22am
How sad it is that as there must be a lot of gun owners who have "mental issues". That can be the only reason I could see why gun owner would be against adding mental issues to the background check. Maybe they themselves, or their buddies, might not pass muster.

I don't believe the Founding Fathers intended for ANY lunatic [someone having mental issues] to own a gun.

Here's a list of the mass shootings since Columbine.

Think of possibly how many lives might have been saved since 1999 if state legislatures across the nation AND Congress had the stones to stand up to the gun lobby, the NRA, the TEA Party, etc.


Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jan 15, 2014 8:34am
Not to hijack the topic, but here's a poll released on Jan 13, 2014 from Monmouth Univ saying most NJ voters still approve of Christie would still vote for Christie as their Governor.


Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jan 15, 2014 8:54am
One last topic jump: This time, from the Daily Mail in the UK.

How religion cuts crime: Church-goers are less likely to shoplift, take drugs, and download music illegally. The study found people who visit places of worship commit fewer crimes.

The more frequent the visits, the lower the chance of delinquent behaviour.

Crimes ranged from littering and music piracy, up to the use of illegal drugs...


Wed, Jan 15, 2014 9:20am
This legislation ventures into territory few want to enter.
And for good reason. Yesterday we received the news that a convicted cop killer could not be executed for his crime. The reason? His IQ is not high enough! We have reason to avoid mental health restrictions determined by the government.

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 9:41am
Well, there's a reason why they call them GUN NUTS. Their solution to everything: MORE GUNS. School shootings? Have teachers packing heat. Crime? Have everybody pack heat? Have a little spare time? Go kill Bambi's mother.

And what about that cop in Florida this week who shot and killed a guy for texting at the movies (during previews, not the feature)? I am not entirely unsympathetic here. Texting in movies. Talking on cellphones in restaurants. There are so many annoying jerks in the world and if everybody were packing, it would be so easy to give into the understandable impulse of the moment.

For the record, the 2nd amendment gives the people the right to serve in the Armed Forces, not to play cowboy with real guns.

MFD: So, does this mean church-goers have higher personal standards of moral and ethical behavior, or, are they just the kind of people who don't question authority and do as they are told? Nothing in the Torah can be construed to make doing drugs a sin. Besides, doesn't your doctrine teach the god created weed and coke, and aren't people taught to enjoy god's creations?

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 9:50am
This bill is so flawed in its application, it should have never seen the light of day. For as good as a bill like this is in theory, there are way too many privacy concerns.

A). Who is responsible for determining who is 'mentally ill?" A case worker with a BA? A psychologist? A psychiatrist? Who ultimately makes that decision? And after years of debate about psychiatrists being too quick to prescribe for any number of reasons, how are we to be sure they are not jumping the gun on deeming what is a potentially violent situation?

B). Just what is a 'danger to self and others' and how is that going to be defined? A woman in therapy to get through the struggle of divorce - she shows anger (naturally)- is she going to be deemed a threat to her ex or any other person? A young adult (18-22) dealing with the sudden death of a parent who also shows anger (naturally); is that person now unstable and a possible threat to society?

A woman dealing with postpartum depression? A man struggling with the loss of a job and stress related to that?

C). Who is going to determine if those mental-health individuals are equipped to make such a call, and what of the patients' privacy rights? A patient comes in to talk through some issues and next thing that person knows, the police are knocking down that person's door to seize guns (they may or may not have), or the person decides to take up target shooting as a hobby, and is told he/she isn't allowed to purchase a gun because of a perceived 'potential for violence.' And is the patient even informed of this, or is it hush-hush between the mental health professional and the police?

D). Other blogs have pointed out that veterans and police have a much higher incidence of PTSD, depression, and other mental-health issues than the general public, so why are they not automatically put on the list for not being able to own a gun after their service is over?

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 10:35am
" Who is responsible for determining who is 'mentally ill?""

Easy. Anyone who wants to own guns is mentally ill.

Veterans and cops are the most dangerous. It was a cop who shot a guy in a movie theater this week. Vets? Remember all those Viet Nam wackos coming back and going crazy? Now the military is unleashing a new crop of nut-jobs on society.

Besides, the current military is all-volunteer. Nobody forced them to go. They knew what they were getting into. Maybe they wanted the benefits. Maybe they liked the idea of shooting people and blowing up stuff real good. Whatever. It was their choice to go and their responsibility, so they don't deserve any special consideration.

Anybody remember the stories in recent months? Somebody sees somebody outside and opens fire. Turns out it's the husband. Somebody stops to ask directions and gets blown away. There have been dozens of them. More people get killed with guns on any single day than were killed in any of the highly-publicized school shootings the media hos find so fascinating.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jan 15, 2014 11:03am
JimH: So the government is now using some mental standard not to convict, not being in his/her right mind. So should the person who's been diagnosed with some mental issue, who needs to take meds daily to keep all the wheels of the trolley on the tracks, be allowed to legally own a gun? Many of these people, on their own decide to stop taking their meds, then they spiral back into their former "crazy" self, as the wheels of their trolley start coming off the tracks.

Certainly for people such as these, having easy access to guns/rifles is not in society's best interest.

Billsmith: One aspect of that article mentioned that those who are regulars to church also make like-minded friends, so they are less likely to be in circles where those "less desirable" activities are happening.

Kind of what seems to happen to most folks as they go through their life. You're a single adult [20-something]; you hang out with others like you as you all have similar interests.

Then you get married; now you don't ditch your single friends, but your life changed and before you know it, you're hanging out more with other married couples [possibly some of your single friends got married too, but also new friends that are married].

Then you have a child/children. Again your circle starts changing as your life-focus changes, so before too long you're hanging out with married couples who have children. You get the idea.

My guess is this same sort of thing that's going on with this article about church attendance. I'll take it a step further. Your circle of church friends will also change as you move from one church to another. I still run into people I used to know, who were at churches I used to attend. It's good to see them, and they seem to enjoy seeing me, we catch up, etc., but our world has changed as now I'm a Lutheran and they're still a charismatic, a United Methodist, or a Roman Catholic... our lives have drifted apart.

From what I've observed over the years, my guess is most Lutherans have more friends who are Lutheran than Methodist, Baptist, fundamentalists, or Catholic. Same for each of these other groups. Baptists probably have more Baptist friends than Lutheran, Methodist, or Catholic. Probably more of Mrpizza's closest friends go to his church, or, if not his church, one similar to his. People tend to hang out with folks who have similar interests and beliefs, political views, etc., as their own.

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 11:31am
MFD: You're right, social norms (or social pressure, if you will) play a huge role in shaping behavior. And the kind of religiously homogeneous social networks you describe explain why Christians so often don't see a problem with Christian prayers in secular public settings, or don't understand why everybody doesn't say "Merry Christmas" in December. They live in a world where everybody is Christian. and even has a shared view of Christianity.

But religious observance and practice may not play as central a role in the lives of many Christians as it does for other Christians, possibly including you. For those people, church performs a spiritual function, not a social one, and they may socialize through work associations or some affinity group (without regard to religious affiliation).

Christians differ from libertarians or objectivists in that the latter types make their own rules. Christians accept rules given to them.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jan 15, 2014 11:53am
Bill: For me, church does perform a spiritual function, from which my bedrock views on life derive, but I don't just accept all blindly; thus, as I've studied and grown in my walk with Christ over the years, I find myself changing some elements of what I believe, beyond the bedrock stuff. That Galileo thing of the scriptures are correct, but my understanding may need to be revised as I learn and hopefully see a bit clearer.

Probably why I've not stayed a Catholic, the religion of my youth, or stayed in the other denominations I spent a number of years in also; nor probably why I'm not a G.O.P.er nor a DEM. So I don't just accept blindly rules given me by church or secular society.

I consider myself to be a "thinking Christian", even though I lack formal higher education. I'm not willing to check my brain at the door of my church, nor the polling booth.

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 4:10pm
MFD: I know you do think about these things a lot. However, you think about them within the context of authority, the authority of scripture and before that the teaching authority of the church. You follow god's rules, not your own. That's different than say drawing up your own ethical and moral code, your own set of commandments that you choose for yourself.

And not all Christians organize their social networks around their church, nor use Christianity as their primary identity or "ground of being" in the world.

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 5:05pm
"Not to hijack the topic, but...."
Notice how the word "but" negates whatever precedes it in a sentence. C'mon, the "topic jump" could have waited until Friday.

The study of church-goers was conducted in Britain, not the U.S.
Only 18- to 34-year-olds were included and it covered only minor offenses.

A religious group paid for it.

That group, The Bill Hill Charitable Trust, has as its stated purpose the relief of poverty in London.

So, Christians give money to help poor people and it gets used instead for a self-serving, promotional poll? Sounds like Christie using disaster-relief money for TV spots featuring himself.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jan 15, 2014 5:18pm
Billsmith: Your post about me thinking a lot & trying to follow God's rules, etc., is well said, to use that phrase.

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 6:07pm
MFD and everybody: You might find following "quiz" identifying personality traits that shape political views (and maybe religious inclinations, too) interesting.

Can TIME Predict Your Politics?

See how your preferences in dogs, Internet browsers, and 10 other items predict your partisan leanings.

Social scientists find many questions about values and lifestyle that have no obvious connection to politics can be used to predict a person’s ideology. Even a decision as trivial as which browser you’re using to read this article is imbued with clues about your personality. Are you on a Mac or PC? Did you use the default program that came with the computer or install a new one?

In the following interactive, we put together 12 questions that have a statistical correlation to a person’s political leanings, even if the questions themselves are seemingly apolitical. At the end of this (completely anonymous) quiz, we’ll use your responses to guess your politics.

Read more: Personality Quiz: Can TIME Guess Your Politics? | TIME.com http://science.time.com/2014/01/09/can-time-predict-your-politics/#ixzz2qVlVUGSg

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 7:15pm
One thing we can all agree on for sure. Both George Zimmerman and this retired cop who killed that young man in the theater definitely have mental issues. Unfortunately, too late for the victims and their families. While I agree with Florida's "stand your ground" law in principle, both of these cases are clear abuses of that law.

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 7:18pm
MFD: Once again, stop blaming the TEA party. They're not in power, and have no legislative say-so.

Thu, Jan 16, 2014 1:05am
I would donate to the "Benny Hill" Charitable Foundation.... if I got to run around there at the end.....

Thu, Jan 16, 2014 1:13am
Back to the Senate Dems. It appears they had too many unpinned threads in an election year, and all thought better off to just leave the topic alone.

A good analogy would be if you were hiking in the woods, and saw a giant hornets nest on a limb high above your head...

If no school shooting occurs before election year here in Sussex or Kent County, it was probably the wisest course.

However, if a Sandy Hook were to occur in our state, the Dems receive full blame.

Here is one of the best takes that can ever be found on the event...


Thu, Jan 16, 2014 2:25am
" Once again, stop blaming the TEA party. They're not in power, and have no legislative say-so."

Really, Pizza? You lie. They caused the gridlock in congress. They may not be able to do anything but they stop anything from being done.

Thu, Jan 16, 2014 3:15am
Bill: Now THAT would be a beautiful thing. Gridlock is good!

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jan 16, 2014 6:37am
Mrpizza : Many guns-owners who support allowing any nut job to legally own guns, who want no mental issues included on background checks, ARE TEA folks. That's why I included them in my post further up the page. The TEA party is not helping to make it more difficult for people with mental issues to get guns, so from where I sit, TEA folks are part of the problem.

Thu, Jan 16, 2014 8:01am
MFD: Pizza does have a point, sort of. In truth, there is no tea party. It's not a political party, or an organized group of any kind. Maybe it qualifies as a movement. A bunch of groups and fund-raising organizations operate under the tea party banner, and they don't agree on much except hating the government.

I watched the American Experience documentary 1964 yesterday and the tea party has taken over the role in political life previously performed by Southern Democrats: They block things. They force anybody else to "compromise" and eviscerate legislation or policies in order to get anything done. Gridlock was happening 50 years ago, too. The only difference was Johnson knew how to make things happen in Congress. Obama was too busy running for president during his less than four years in the Senate to even know how to find the men's room.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jan 16, 2014 8:26am
Billsmith: So it would seem, based on my understanding of what you wrote, that the TEA movement is "Southern", an extension of the "Southern Dems" 50 years ago. Those were the same Southern Dems who were against LBJ's Great Society, Medicare, and the civil rights laws. Kind of a "redneck" movement [or as Ziva on NCIS used to call them, "redshirts"].

So it might be then that the "Dixiecrats" of Truman's time [I believe Strom Thurman was one] were also the same type of folks, again from the South.

That explains the Duck Dynasty thing and why someone would watch a so-called reality TV show about guys who make duck calls for a living. It might be interesting to see how a duck call is made, so one 30-minute show [on Discover or History Channel] would cover that, but a weekly TV series???

Thinking on it a bit more, given that it would appear that the TEA movement is Southern with many "redneck" types as eagar members might explain how USA Today started calling the conservative TEA type counties "RED" and the liberal counties "BLUE". The Red counties were the "redneck" counties.

The USA Today designation never made sense to me, as being RED usually meant being a Communist as in Red China, USSR, with their red flags, etc. So the ultra-liberal socialist-type counties might seem better named Red, whereas ultra-conservative counties wouldn't be "socialistic" at all, but more of a facist bent, so Red wouldn't work.

But the redneck thing might be the rationale USA Today used when picking the colors of a RED state vs. a BLUE state on the newspaper's infamous map for the 2000 election.

Thu, Jan 16, 2014 9:05am
MFD: The Southern Democrats had an informal alliance with conservative Republicans back then. Then, as now, the Republican Party was divided between what we now call "establishment Republicans" (the Wall Street, Dewey, Rockefeller wing), often called "moderates" and generally supportive of big-business interests, and Midwestern or Main Street Republicans (the Taft - later Goldwater - wing). This latter group in Congress often allied with Southern Democrats. Nixon's "Southern Strategy" realigned the political parties and brought Southern Democrats into the Republican Party. Now, they are able to block things from within the Republican Party, just as they once did from within the Democratic Party. The more things change, the more they stay the same...

"Dixiecrat" was a name given by the newspapers to Southern Democrats who bolted the Democratic Party in 1948 and ran their own candidate for president (Strom Thurmond). The trigger was a civil rights plank in the 1948 Democratic platform, instigated by Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey. Progressives also left the Democratic Party in 1948 and ran former vice president Henry Wallace as their candidate. Everybody came back in 1952.

The Tea Party is the direct successor of the John Birch Society, founded and funded by the Koch Brothers' father. As well as other "mad as hell" groups like the KKK. The KKK had a comparable political influence in the 19-teens and twenties to the tea party today.

I have no idea who decided this "red state" - "blue state" thing. It seems to have been decided after TV started showing election returns in color and wanted to use colors on their maps. It seems like red=Republican and blue=Democrat was chosen deliberately to avoid the more traditional color association.

"Red China" was an Americanism (used by headline writers), the Chinese never used it. It probably comes from the Red Army (vs. White Army) after the Russian Revolution.

Traditionally, duck calls are carved out of wood. It works like a whistle. Guys could learn how to make them in Boy Scouts or summer-camp craft classes. Google "how to make a duck call."

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jan 16, 2014 10:26am
Billsmith: Thanks for the clarification on all that above.

So there was 3 Dem-type parties running in the 1948 Presidential race?

From what I just found via Wikipedia, the results of the Election were far closer than one might have thought given the 3 DEM type candidates.

49.6% for Truman, 45.1% for Dewey, 2.4% for Thurmond [carried SC, Ala, Miss, and La], and the fourth didn't carry any states and his name wasn't mentioned in that article other than to say: "the far left and far right of the Democratic Party running third-party campaigns."

Interesting, the only VP in that race I've heard of was Dewey's, Earl Warren.

Thu, Jan 16, 2014 12:49pm
MFD: Reportedly, Earl got the Supreme Court nod in return for backing off in favor of Ike for the '52 Republican nomination. For all his reputed "liberalism" on the court, as Attorney General of California he was an aggressive force behind putting U.S. citizens of Japanese descent in concentration camps.

Interesting enough, the states Strom carried in '48 are the same ones Barry Goldwater carried in '64 (plus Georgia and his home state of Arizona). If color TV had been around in '48, I wonder what color they would have used for the Dixiecrat states?

I neglected to add earlier, traditional Southern Democrats were not as friendly to big (i.e., Yankee) business as their tea party successors are. They hated both the federal government and big business. Not surprising, since their financial backing came from the South's traditional landed aristocracy ("Gone With The Wind" theme now playing in the background). The plantation owners also promoted race hatred and Jim Crow laws to get "poor White trash" (or rednecks) to support the interests of wealthy landowners against their own self-interest. Just as now, tea party backers promote hatred of government and present business as everybody's "friend" (and a model of efficiency).

The progressive party candidate, Henry Wallace, had been FDR's vice president in his third term but party leaders got him dropped from the ticket in '48 figuring FDR would not last out his fourth term and Wallace was too liberal. In the '48 race, with the witch hunts getting underway, he and his campaign were effectively smeared as pro-communist. Not likely, since he came from big agribusiness money (Pioneer, now owned by DuPont). PBS ran a documentary on the guy. If they show it again, I recommend it. He seemed like a very dedicated and impressive guy.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jan 16, 2014 1:20pm
Billsmith: Interesting background data. I'll have to check out PBS video's to see if the Henry Wallace program is available that way.

Thu, Jan 16, 2014 6:55pm
MFD & Bill: I find no evidence of anything you're accusing the TEA party of. I think all you know about them is what the left-wing tabloid media and Harry Hitler's Democrats have told you.

Thu, Jan 16, 2014 8:12pm
Bill: Your explanation of history to MFD appears well researched and explained. I would, however, take exception to any comparisons to the KKK. I think the current batch of Senate Democrats would be more likely to align with them.

You guys excoriate Ted Cruz, but I've studied video of him and not once have I seen him act arrogantly or raise his voice. If I were a senator and Diane Feinstein or Harry Reid spoke to me the way they speak to him, I'd be removed by security and arrested by the Capitol Police for disorderly conduct. Truly, I consider Ted Cruz a better man than I am to put up with those arrogant b-----ds on the left.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jan 16, 2014 11:36pm
Mrpizza: Someone told me that Ted Cruz was Canadian & now is a U.S. citizen. If that is the case, ole Texas Cruz isn't eligible to run for Prez. Is that correct?

Fri, Jan 17, 2014 4:18am
MFD: He always was a U.S. citizen, born to an American mother and a Cuban father in Canada. He was a dual national and recently, in response to political pressure, gave up his Canadian citizenship. No wonder on his current status in Cuba.

"I would, however, take exception to any comparisons to the KKK."

If the shoe fits, Pizza.

Sun, Jan 19, 2014 1:04pm
Bill brings up something interesting that popped up on the side somewhere. The lead principal who spoke out against Obama's fake birth certificate said in response to being questions on why Obama was bad and why Cruz is good, said, that because there was no outcry over Obama, there shall be none over Cruz...

Point is his justification pretty well points out the superfluousness of the original argument.

The Tea Party is saying that since Cruz's mother was an American citizen, (though he still is a Canadian citizen I believe though there were previous reports he was ditching it,) it doesn't matter where he was born.

Ironically that would have negated the entire birther outcry of 2010 because Obama's mother was an American citizen as well.

Point is the whole Obama argument was completely fabricated and had zero basis in fact... The huge black eye, is actually not against the Tea Party (they are known fools) but that the main stream press was led with a ring through their nose by these same fools over the whole Obama birther controvery. Not once did the major media stand up, as did Cronkite to Vietnam, and say this is foolishness, the Tea Party are stupid, and America needs to laugh at them and enjoy the comedy, but not stake our future upon Human being who act like clowns...

The tea party: they are the porn of America's politics.

Sun, Jan 19, 2014 4:44pm
"The tea party: they are the porn of America's politics."

That's an injustice to porn.

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