Heller's Scapegoats

36 Pages Posted: 15 May 2015  

Date Written: May 13, 2015

Abstract

In the United States, a psychiatric diagnosis, or involuntary civil commitment to a psychiatric ward — which is considered treatment in the medical context — almost always leads to quasi- criminalization in the legal context. After such diagnosis or treatment, you are rendered, automatically and permanently, a member of one of our nation’s most vulnerable populations and stripped of rights based on your status. In no area is the U.S. populace in greater agreement over this stripping of rights than in the areas of gun control and civil commitment, especially in our apparently new “era of spree-killings.” When it comes to stripping gun rights and involuntarily treating people with psychiatric disabilities (“PPDs”), politicians and pundits on the left and the right are eerily aligned. This Article provides an answer as to why: PPDs are our society’s scapegoats, the tool we use to externalize our fear of the unpredictable violence of what appears to be the rise of spree-killings. Involuntary civil commitment and gun control work together to scapegoat PPDs: often the response to an act of otherwise unexplainable violence is for pundits and politicians on the left and the right to discuss ways to involuntarily commit PPDs and ways to prevent PPDs from getting their hands on guns.

Keywords: mental health, mental illness, gun control, involuntary commitment, psychiatry, D.C. v. Heller, scapegoat, criminal law

Suggested Citation

Pryal, Katie Rose Guest, Heller's Scapegoats (May 13, 2015). North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 93, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2606062

Katie Rose Guest Pryal (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

United States

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