Sunday, December 16, 2012

Should Asperger and Autism Patients Own Guns?

The issue of gun control was raised immediately by gun-control advocates following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Fashion Island in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday. 


As the story unfolded, it was later revealed that the shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, had Asperger Syndrome, a psychological diagnosis that falls within the Autism Spectrum Disorders. The debate then shifted to whether people with Asperger Syndrome are more likely to commit a mass killing. 


Psychologists publicly weighed in on the subject, stating that people diagnosed with Asperger alone does not necessarily make someone more likely to commit murders, but that some of the other mental disorders sometimes associated with Aspergers, such as depression, could lead to violent behavior.


In Florida, it is easer than other states for someone with a mental disorder to purchase a firearm unless that person's disorder at some point in their life required court intervention. Florida statute 790.065(2)(a)(4) prohibits the purchase of a firearm only if the person "Has been adjudicated mentally defective or has been committed to a mental institution by a court and as a result is prohibited by federal law from purchasing a firearm."


Mental disorders, like vision, can vary greatly in degree of impairment. While it is easy to diagnose eyesight impairment with a simple test before issuing a driver's license, it is not so easy to diagnose whether a mental disorder could lead to violent behavior. 


Since it would take the diagnosis of a medical professional to distinguish whether autistic patient would have violent tendencies, should the mental illness gun control law be changed to require that those who have been diagnosed with autism or Asperger's disease obtain a letter from their doctor stating that the person be allowed to purchase a firearm?


In response to recent media reports that Adam Lanza may have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum or with a psychiatric disability, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) issued the following statement: 


“Our hearts go out to the victims of today’s shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and their families. Recent media reports have suggested that the perpetrator of this violence, Adam Lanza, may have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, or with another psychiatric disability. In either event, it is imperative that as we mourn the victims of this horrific tragedy that commentators and the media avoid drawing inappropriate and unfounded links between autism or other disabilities and violence. Autistic Americans and individuals with other disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crime than non-disabled people. In fact, people with disabilities of all kinds, including autism, are vastly more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. Should the shooter in today’s shooting prove to in fact be diagnosed on the autism spectrum or with another disability, the millions of Americans with disabilities should be no more implicated in his actions than the non-disabled population is responsible for those of non-disabled shooters. 


Today’s violence was the act of an individual. We urge media, government and community leaders to speak out against any effort to spuriously link the Autistic or broader disability community with violent crime. Autistic Americans and other groups of people with disabilities persist in facing discrimination and segregation in school, the workplace and the general community. In this terrible time, our society should not further stigmatize our community. As our great nation has so many times in the past, let us come together to both mourn those killed by acts of heinous murder and defend all parts of our country from the scourge of stigma and prejudice.”
 
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1 comment:

P. Kendall said...

While I appreciate the fact that you defend people with Austism and Asperger's, I am disappointed in the fact that you failed to answr the question. Should people with autism spectrum disorders be allowed to own guns?

I am a gun owner, and I have Asperger's Syndrome. Simply because of that diagnosis should I be prohibited from owning a firearm simply because one person who may or may not have had Asperger's committed an unspeakable act? In my mind, the answer is no.


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