There’s a distressing story at Mother Jones about a schizophrenic man on death row in Texas. Titled “How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?” the story explores how the Texas courts determine whether anyone is too mentally compromised to be executed. But there are a couple of other points that scream out of it.
One is that Texas has nothing that rises to the level of a “system” that identifies psychotic people and at least puts them somewhere where they can’t harm themselves or anyone else. And actual medical treatment would not be a bad thing, of course. The subject, Andre Thomas, had been identified as severely disturbed before the voices in his head compelled him to murder his ex-wife and their children. But, somehow, he remained under no supervision of any sort until he confessed to murder.
This reminded me a of Andrea Yates’s story. You probably remember that Yates was the Texas mother who drowned her five children in a bathtub. It turned out that not only was Yates massively psychotic at the time of the incident; she had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals a couple of times before the drownings. And at the time of the drownings her family had been taking her to see a doctor on a regular basis. But even then, the amount of help and supervision that she really needed just wasn’t available, somehow.
But I don’t want to pick on Texas too much, because the psychiatric “safety net” is pretty much nonexistent everywhere, from what I see. In the past such people might have been warehoused in a state psychiatric hospital, which often were awful places, but the only alternative we seem to have come up with is to just let them stumble around until they kill somebody. Or die on the street somewhere.
And this takes us to the subject of firearm purchasing. The walking crazy are among us. And it’s not always obvious at a glance who they are. The “system” is so porous that certifiably sick people go undiagnosed — or even if diagnosed, untreated — for years. So how does anyone think the “system” would be able to maintain a Crazy People Registry as part of a gun purchase background check? (Even if it were a good idea, which it isn’t.) There is no system.