Politicians Are Poody Heads

and they're not the only ones…

Gun Access and the Mentally Ill

on August 15, 2012



Timothy Courtois’ family had been worried about him for weeks. They repeatedly told police in Biddeford, Maine, that the 49-year-old was off his meds for bipolar disorder. And police were also told he had guns. But still, because he wasn’t doing anything that rose to the legal definition of imminent threat, police said their hands were tied.

“We’re very limited — very, very limited to what we can do,” says Biddeford Police Deputy Chief JoAnne Fisk. “Just because somebody has a hunch, we will investigate it. But everybody has rights, and you have the right to bear arms in this country.”


Fortunately, Courtois was caught speeding toward New Hampshire.  He told police that he was going there to kill a former boss.


Federal law bars gun sales to the mentally ill only if they’ve ever been deemed by a judge to be mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed. That may have been the case with Courtois, but states’ reporting of such things to the federal database is spotty, and very often, it doesn’t show up when a gun seller does a background check.


Other reports indicate that Courtois had attended The Dark Knight Rises, while carrying a loaded gun.  When police searched his car and house, and found clippings about the Aurora, Colorado shooting, as well as “an AK-47, four handguns, and several boxes of ammunition.” in his vehicle, and “a banned fully automatic Russian assault rifle plus…. 8,000 to 10,000 rounds of ammunition at his residence.”


4 responses to “Gun Access and the Mentally Ill

  1. Naja pallida says:

    And how many people with mental illnesses have actually had a judge declare them to be so? I’m sure there are millions of gun owners out there who are clinically depressed, or have other mental illnesses that could lead them to harm themselves or others. Maybe we need to reincarnate J. Edgar Hoover to start keeping files on everyone, so we know when someone might not be a qualified gun owner.

  2. Zorba says:

    No, we most certainly don’t need that, because that would lead to a worse situation than we have now, with our rights to privacy constantly being eroded. And I don’t want psychiatrists reporting all their patients to a central data-bank, either. As one expert said in the first article I linked to, that type of thing would only lead to many fewer people who need help, seeking that help.
    I don’t know the answer. Maybe more easily available, affordable mental health services and more community support might help, a little. But you cannot force an adult who is not deemed an imminent threat to harm others or himself, to get that help. And you cannot force an adult to take any medicines or undergo any therapy that might help. Fewer guns might help a little, but I suppose that people will always find ways to arm themselves if they want to, whether legally or illegally.
    So, Naja, what’s the answer? I just wish that I knew, but I don’t.

    • Naja pallida says:

      A combination of many fewer guns, and better access to mental health care, seems to be effective for other countries.

      • Zorba says:

        Naja, that would certainly be the ideal. A culture in this country that supports gun control, as well as much more help for the mentally ill, would be so wonderful. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening any time soon here.

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