VP Biden: Mental Health Checks Could Have Stopped Vir. Tech Shooting

After a discussion on gun control at an event in Richmond, Virginia, Vice President Joe Biden claimed that better mental health checks could have stopped the shooting on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007.

Biden said that he and those he consulted during the recent gun banning commission he chaired which was completed in mid January had reached a “pretty broad consensus” of policy recommendations that would include “mental capacity” to determine who would be allowed to purchase guns in the future.

“One of the problems that was pointed out here was that there was an adjudication of the young man that committed the crime at Virginia Tech, and yet he was able to go out and purchase two weapons,” the Vice President said.

In 2007 Seung-Hui Cho, a student at the university, killed 32 at the Blacksburg, VA campus. Cho used two handguns that he had purchased legally. The killer, though, had a history of mental health issues that apparently didn’t come up in his background checks when he purchased the weapons.

Improved screening for mental health issues is one of the areas that many on both sides of the gun control issue support. Even the NRA has advocated stronger mental health screening not to mention improving mental health services in general.

Recently the NRA announced support for legislation that would ensure that appropriate records for those judged mentally incompetent or had been voluntarily committed would mental health institutions to be made available for use in firearms transfer background checks.

But the NRA has also warned of overbroad mental health disqualifiers that might unduly affect our military veterans.

One might note that better mental health checks could have prevented us being saddled with Joe Biden, too.

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  • Vagabond661

    51% of gun deaths are suicides. The last 3 or 4 shooting were by people who were mentally challenged. Why mental health is not the key issue in this debate is beyond me.

    • herddog505

      It’s inconvenient for the lefties, and wingers can see how (as WTH notes) it could become a powerful weapon against gun owners.

    • jim_m

      Why mental health is not the key issue in this debate is beyond me.

      Because mental health can be a temporary or transient issue and the left wants to permanently take away people’s guns. How do you prevent someone who is no longer depressed from obtaining a gun? Depression is startlingly common to permanently outlaw anyone who has ever been depressed from having a gun is not going to be accepted (hell, you would probably rule out a large number of police officers if that were the case).

      • Brucehenry

        I agree. I wish there were an answer. Can nothing be worked out to make sure crazies like the VT shooter can’t get guns but people who may have had minor diagnoses like depression or anxiety could?

        • jim_m

          Not until both sides start to actually talk about it. Right now the only talk is about restricting guns based on cosmetics.

          • Brucehenry

            Ummm, isn’t this article about Biden talking about it?

          • jim_m

            True that, but the left has proposed a lot of legislation that ignores it.

            Then again he is talking not about getting the man help but just keeping him from getting a gun. The point is to get them help and then you don’t have to worry about him getting a gun.

            Once again the focus is on the restriction and not on helping anyone.

          • herddog505

            What ought we to do? How can we encourage people who think that they might have a problem (do crazy people even realize that they are?) to go to the authorities when it’s possible – even likely – that they’ll be branded as “mentally ill” with the consequences that might follow: social oppobrium, job trouble, some rights being (ahem) curtailed, perhaps being institutionalized? And SHOULDN’T we lock up some people? Should, for example, Cho or Loughner have been locked up had it been known that they were as loony as they (in hindsight) were?

            How, too, do we avoid straying over the line between getting people the help they need (or, at least, keeping them out of a position where they can hurt themselves and others) and giving politicians and the police yet another tool that they can abuse?

          • jim_m

            Well, yes, some people should be locked up. And yes, some people should not be allowed to have guns regardless (people with schizophrenia and some forms of bipolar illness). However, diagnosis with some of these illnesses is still pretty shoddy.

            The best case is to get them the appropriate help and then there isn’t any need for restrictions. But as I said. Non one is seriously talking about getting anyone help and only talking about identifying and punishing them.,

          • ackwired

            What steps should be taken to assure that they get the appropriate help?

          • jim_m

            First step is to allow people to actually get the help they need. Make it possible to commit people again. Make it so someone who needs help doesn’t have to break the law first before the government allows that help to be provided.

            Once it is possible to get help to people who need it then we need to educate people how to get others that help. We have created a society that looks the other way when it comes to helping out others. We have been taught that government will help so we should do nothing. We have been taught that helping others is not our responsibility. That needs to change.

          • JWH

            IMO, the first line of defense is the mental-health professionals. The psychiatric profession needs to set up some sort of standards — I don’t know what — that will trigger a report to law-enforcement authorities (and to the proper authorities!), and those law-enforcement authorities, in turn those authorities need to have standards for what will trigger a) a wellness visit and/or b) search warrants or whatever process is needed to find out whether another James Eagan Holmes is going to shoot up a movie theater.

            And if there are standards, they evidently need to be revisited.

          • jim_m

            Better than reporting someone to law enforcement would be to give mental health professionals the ability to commit someone more easily.

            The solution is not about how do we create some hard and fast link between mental health and gun ownership. The answer is how do we get people who need it the help they need so we don’t have to worry about a violent outburst.

            If people no longer slip through the cracks then we don’t have to worry about the gun control issue.

          • JWH

            If you’re going to do that, then there needs to be some serious spending on mental health. And I’m not convinced there’s enough political will for that.

          • jim_m

            There is none. But it doesn’t have to be all government spending. Part of the problem is that laws were changed that made it very difficult to force people into treatment. Those laws need to be reexamined and rolled back. We went too far and the result is that people who need help but are too far gone to accept it willingly are not getting treated.

          • JWH

            I disagree slightly. If you re-examine laws that make it easier to commit individuals, then you need to fund the beds to which they would be committed.

          • jim_m

            It is government spending only if the government is the sole provider of health insurance. More reason to not abolish private insurance.

          • Oysteria

            Unfortunately, Loughner was already known to be whacked out and potentially dangerous. The problem was that no one did anything about it.

            Even the latest guy in Newtown (I’ve already forgotten his name). His mother was trying to have him committed. It would be interesting to know how long she’d been trying and what hurdles she was having to jump. Was it weeks? Months? Years?

            It just seems to me that so many of our systems are so badly broken that it’s often too late for help in many forms.

        • jim_m

          Apparently the only answer the dems have is to drag Gabby Giffords around to the office of every GOP congressman and force them to tell her, no, they will not be voting in favor of gun confiscation. Of course they will not be going to any dems who have to stand for reelection.

          Two faced fascists the whole lot of them.

      • herddog505

        Imagine if they tossed ADHD in.

        • What makes you think SQUIRREL!

          Um… they won’t?

    • retired.military

      Because if you start questioning mental health than you have to question whether or not a person can make a reasonable choice to vote. Something the dems dont want brought up. Owning a gun is a constitutional right and so is voting.

    • Conservachef


      Why mental health is not the key issue in this debate is beyond me.

      1- mental health is a deeply complicated issue. You can’t propose simple legislation regarding this. It’s been pointed out how challenging recognizing, addressing, and “fixing” mental issues is. Simply put- it’s too complicated to quickly sell to the public, and that’s what the politicians want- quick action. They have to be seen “doing something” about the problem.

      2- Conversely, gun-grabbing is a simple, sellable idea. “The bad guy used a gun! Outlaw all guns!”

  • 914

    Mental health checks would have prevented these 2 clowns from being elected too in a sane world.

  • Paul Hooson

    Strangely, mental health checks might well have stopped Joe Biden from seeking public office in the first place. He may well intentioned, but always manages enough goofy reasoning or statements to make me forever cringe when he speaks. Then again, I would certainly support better mental checks before I would accept unconstitutional restrictions on 2nd Amendment freedoms.

  • GarandFan

    “Adjudicated”? Once again Joey “The Mouth” plays fast and loose with the truth. Cho had mental problems. He VOLUNTARILY signed himself into a mental hospital. Because of that, CHO could legally SIGN HIMSELF OUT! And was therefore LEGALLY able to purchase firearms. No judge COMMITTED Cho.

    The issue in most of these mass shootings has been the mentally ill obtaining firearms. As Jim_m points out, “mental health issues” is not something cut and dried and easily addressed. Much easier for the pols to simply issue a “one size fits all” approach. Simply solution for SIMPLE MINDS.

    As I’ve said before, since the 80’s we are a kinder, gentler, more tolerant and understanding nation. We no longer warehouse our mentally ill in institutions. We no longer FORCE them to take drugs to control their conditions.

    Now we let them deal with the demons in their heads unaided and warehouse them in our county jails and state prisons. SUCH CARING, SUCH COMPASSION!

    • jim_m

      The answer is to get people help and not to create new disincentives for getting that help. All the left can come up with is, Hey, we should do more to punish people if they get the mental health help they need!


  • Par4Course

    First, it’s hard to see how mental health checks and the privacy of medical records required by HIPAA and similar laws can coexist. If I want to own a gun, must I let give up the right to keep my medical records confidential?

    Second, exactly what would be required in a “mental health check?” Would anyone who ever consulted a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor be prohibited from legally buying or owning a gun? That might be an easy threshold to enforce but it would have two effects: (1) It would disqualify a huge number of people whom no reasonable person would classify as dangerous, and (2) It would discourage a number of mentally troubled people from seeking professional help. Would you like to give up your constitutional right to bear arms in order to obtain psychological assistance?

    Assuming that there would be a threshold other than one visit to a mental health professional, how will the feds set the limits and what incentive will mental health counselors have to certify their patients as dangerous or non-dangerous?

    Like many other ideas, the concept of mental health checks for gun buyers has great facial appeal (a lot more, in my view, than banning certain scary looking weapons), but when you start examining at the details, it would be extremely difficult to craft and implement a sound and workable program that did not create more problems than it solved.

    • JWH

      There’s actually a very valid concern here.

      I know that in the legal profession and in the military, individuals are often unwilling to seek mental-health help when they need it precisely because they are afraid that even seeing a counselor or therapist will cause them to lose professional standing.

    • jim_m

      Here’s the issue: If you demand that people provide some kind of certification then where do they get these from? With the AMA and other medical organizations being in the pro gun control camp will they pressure their members to not issue such certifications? Does this end up being a de facto gun ban because no one can get certifications? Or does it end up being just more red tape as some psychologists do huge business writing up certifications and claiming that the person “was OK when I talked to them”?

      The answer is not to create a choke point on gun ownership. the answer is to create a better mental health system where people no longer fall through the cracks.

      What the left is focusing on is the potential for a gun ownership choke point. What we need is to help the mentally ill. The left has displayed no interest in the latter.

  • JWH

    But the NRA has also warned of overbroad mental health disqualifiers that might unduly affect our military veterans.

    This is kind of a hard spot in a number of ways. Mental illness, particularly PTSD, is a major issue among returning veterans. And veterans dealing with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries are at serious risk of harming themselves or others. And there’s still a culture in the military that discourages reporting mental illness.

    I know that’s where the word “unduly” comes in, but we need to be careful about erring too far one way or the other on this aspect of the issue.

  • jim_m

    It really doesn’t matter what is done since the left is not negotiating in good faith. The end game for the left is, as it has always been, gun confiscation. Mental health is just another way for them to get there. They are not proposing to deliver better services or better access to mental health care. They are focused on identifying people and then taking away their rights.

    If there is any question about the left’s endgame just look at NY, where they passed gun registration but they have released their wish list of next steps:

    Confiscation of all firearms arbitrarily redefined as “assault weapons”

    Labeling semi-automatic shotguns as “assault weapons” if they can hold more than five rounds or have a pistol-grip stock

    Confiscation of 10-round magazines

    Limiting the number of rounds in a magazine to five; magazines of greater capacity to be confiscated

    Limiting number of magazines in possession to two

    Mandatory microstamping of all guns in NY state

    Statewide database of all guns

    Limiting guns purchases to one per month

    Allowing a pistol permit database to be released to the public

    Relicensing of all pistol permit owners

    Renewal of all pistol permits every five years

    The point is that they passed registration with the explicit long term aim of confiscation. While gun rights people have always been poo poo’d by the left when we say that this is the aim, we now can see that those who dismissed our concerns were either fools or liars.

  • MunDane68

    I think we should be able to take away guns from people that are mentally ill. The same way we forbid those convicted of libel/plagarism from writing in newspapers.

    • JWH

      The same way we forbid those convicted of libel/plagarism from writing in newspapers.

      Actually, “we” don’t.

      • MunDane68

        …and you completely miss my point, but thanks for playing!

        Here’s a years supply of Rice-a-Roni, The San Francisco Treat!