Monday, January 23, 2012

Why We Need Drug Testing Before Gun Possession, Not AFTER Someone with a Drug Problem Kills People

Mandatory drug testing is like monitoring highways to stop speeders.  It makes our world safer, it stops dangerous people from harming themselves and others by their risky behavior.

We have a problem with drugs, particularly meth.  Use of drugs changes how a person's brain works, leading to them having a break with reality, leading them to tragic failures of judgment.

A blast from the past, all too true of meth, but in varying degrees true of other drugs as well

When guns are added to this mix, it is disastrous.

We don't just 'trust' that people will only drive if they can see properly; we require an eye test.  (Not a bad idea for gun permits either.)  We should do the same with drug testing for gun permits.  It could screen out those who have 'scrambled' and fried their brains before allowing them to have a lethal weapon.

This is not a huge barrier.  There are many occupations which routinely require drug screening, many businesses large and small which mandate this as a job hiring requirement.  It is even more important for having a lethal weapon.

The people who fall into the trap of drug use and addiction are not inherently 'bad' people.  They are ordinary, every day people.  They are the people that we are asked to trust are good, in control, sane, solid, when they are not.  Wrong assumptions, false glittering generalities, kill people, injure people, multiplying the damages of drug use exponentially to affect other people.

The following is an update from a recent story posted here, but it goes so much further than that individual story.   One of the facets of drug use that continues to catch my attention is that so often the people using drugs are financially marginalized; but they always seem to have plenty of money for drugs.  And guns.

The argument that guns are expensive seems to be false.  The argument that guns are not too readily available is demonstrably equally false.  There is no harm, only a tiny inconvenience to those  who do not use drugs.  It is utterly fair and reasonable to ask that drug testing occur voluntarily as part of applying for a firearm permit.  If you don't wish to participate in drug testing, you can simply voluntarily not get a gun or a gun permit, much like not taking an eye exam precludes a drivers license, with similar penalties for non-licensure.

Will this stop all drug users from getting their psychotic hands on firearms? No, not all.  But it will impede them, it will stop some of them, and over time it could make a substantial difference for the better, especially if combined with requiring that private transactions meet the same standards as those from FFLs. 

Because NO ONE knows just by looking at someone, who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, when all of us are somewhere in between the two, a mix of good and bad.  We need rather objectively to quantify those glittering generalities, and to separate out those who are a risk from those who are not, not engage in crap philosophizing that puts people's lives at risk.  We have the capacity to screen people for drug use; having a firearm is illegal while using drugs, it is already a prohibited classification for firearms.  This is one area where we can and should do more than we do to prevent tragedies.

See below, from and the AP:

Horrific murder no surprise in US meth hub

DEA officer: 'We're slinging it all over the country from here'

updated 1/21/2012 1:30:08 PM ET
When a 23-year-old Fresno woman fatally shot her two toddlers and a cousin, critically wounded her husband then turned the gun on herself last Sunday, investigators immediately suspected methamphetamine abuse in what otherwise was inexplicable carnage. It turned out the mother had videotaped herself smoking meth hours before the shooting.
In family photos, the children are adorable, the mother pretty. They lived in a large apartment complex near a freeway with neatly clipped lawns and mature trees. The father was recently laid off from a packing house job.
"When you get this type of tragedy, it's not a surprise that drugs were involved," said Lt. Mark Salazar, the Fresno Police Department's homicide commander. "Meth has been a factor in other violent crimes."
A Bakersfield mother was sentenced Tuesday for stabbing her newborn while in a meth rage. An Oklahoma woman drowned her baby in a washing machine in November. A New Mexico woman claiming to be God stabbed her son with a screwdriver last month, saying, "God wants him dead."
"Once people who are on meth become psychotic, they are very dangerous," said Dr. Alex Stalcup, who treated Haight Ashbury heroin users in the 1960s, but now researches meth and works with addicts in the San Francisco Bay Area suburbs. "They're completely bonkers; they're nuts. We're talking about very extreme alterations of normal brain function. Once someone becomes triggered to violence, there aren't any limits or boundaries."
The Central Valley of California is a hub of the nation's methamphetamine distribution network, making extremely pure forms of the drug easily available locally. And law enforcement officials say widespread meth abuse is believed to be driving much of the crime in the vast farming region.
Chronic use of the harsh chemical compound known as speed or crank can lead to psychosis, which includes hearing voices and experiencing hallucinations. The stimulant effect of meth is up to 50 times longer than cocaine, experts say, so users stay awake for days on end, impairing cognitive function and contributing to extreme paranoia.
"Your children and your spouse become your worst enemy, and you truly believe they are after you," said Bob Pennal, a recently retired meth investigator from the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.
Methamphetamine originally took root in California's agricultural heartland in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a poor man's cocaine. Its use initially creates feelings of euphoria and invincibility, but experts say repeated abuse can alter brain chemistry and sometimes cause schizophrenia-like behavior.
Meth's availability and its potential for abuse combine to create the biggest drug threat in the Central Valley, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Justice's Drug Intelligence Center. From 2009 to 2010 methamphetamine busts in the Central Valley more than tripled to 1,094 kilograms, or more than 2,400 pounds, the report says.
Hiding place Large tracts of farmland with isolated outbuildings are an ideal place to avoid detection, which is why the region is home to nearly all of the nation's "super labs," controlled by Mexican drug trafficking organizations, said John Donnelly, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration office in Fresno.
"They have the potential to make 150 pounds per (each) cook," he said. "There are more super labs in California than anywhere else. Every week another office calls us — St. Paul, Dayton, Kansas, Texas — and says, 'We've got a meth case here' and they say the suspects are from Turlock or Visalia. We're slinging it all over the country from here."
Last month, a drug task force working in four central California counties busted 24 alleged members of the Mexican drug cartel La Familia Michoacana with 14 pounds of powdered meth, 30 gallons of meth solution, 17 guns, $110,000 in cash and a fleet of vehicles with sophisticated hidden compartments for smuggling.
Most law enforcement agencies don't keep statistics on how many homicides, burglaries and thefts are meth-related, but those responding to the National Drug Intelligence Center's 2011 survey said the drug is the top contributor to violent crimes and thefts.
"It drives more crime than other drugs do. Meth is in its own category, because it's so much more addictive than other drugs," said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.
Across the valley, meth addicts steal any metal they can resell — agricultural plumbing, copper wiring, lawn sprinklers.
"We lose five to 10 manhole covers a week," said Ceres Police Chief Art de Werk, who said a woman was injured recently when she fell into an unprotected drain in a shopping center. "Meth is the poor man's drug and frankly the Central Valley is an impoverished geographic area."
'Shake and Bake' Authorities say the science involved in creating the chemical compound continues to evolve, including an easier recipe called "Shake and Bake" that is available on the Internet. Last month, an Oklahoma woman was arrested as she walked around a WalMart store — for six hours before she was noticed — mixing ingredients for Shake and Bake.
In one of the recent attacks by meth users, Aubrey Ragina Mailloux received a nine-month sentence in Bakersfield Tuesday for stabbing her 6-week-old infant in the back and cutting her along her abdomen, jaw and neck during a binge. The baby survived.
 "It's not illegal because we don't want people to feel better. It's illegal because it makes good people do crazy things," said Mailloux's defense attorney, Mark Anthony Raimondo.
In Oklahoma, authorities charged Lyndsey Fiddler with second-degree manslaughter after an aunt found her infant daughter in a washing machine thudding off balance in the spin cycle. The aunt told authorities that Fiddler had been up for three days using meth.
Last Sunday, Fresno police found Aide Mendez dead on the bathroom floor of her home. Her children — 17-month-old Aliyah Echevarria and Isaiah Echevarria, 3 — were in the bathtub. Mendez's cousin was dead in the kitchen. She had shot each in the head. The children's father remains hospitalized with stabbing and gunshot wounds.
Police recovered 10 grams of meth, $8,000 and scales — and the iPad the young mother used to videotape herself smoking meth.
"If she had been on it for any length of time, well it deteriorates your brain and central nervous system," said Sue Webber-Brown, a former DA investigator in Butte County who now advocates nationally for children in drug cases. "If you are already depressed or feel like a loser mom and you don't have a support system and there is no hope, the meth just fuels that."
Image: Aide Mendez
Fresno Police Department  /  AP
Aide Mendez shot her two children, their father and a cousin before committing suicide.
In Albuquerque, N.M., last month Liehsa Henderson, high on meth, claimed to be God and told police God wanted her son to die after allegedly stabbing him in the neck with a screwdriver. The boy survived.


  1. How many gun owners are drug users? And how many people who go through the process of training and background checks to get a carry license are drug users?

    The people who use illegal drugs don't go through the processes that legal gun owners follow. Illegal drug users don't care about the law. Your proposal will only burden law-abiding gun owners without affecting the people that you claim to worry about.

  2. So you are sure she was a legal California gun owner and would have been caught by a drug test when she filled out the paperwork or are you just making a fantastic leap that if there were such a drug test that this could not happen?

  3. FWM, I don't know about this specific woman. I do know that in the fly-over states - and I live in one of those - that it is pretty darn common for the meth-heads legally to possess hunting rifles as well as hand guns.

    Would testing prevent EVERY drug user from having a weapon? No. It might however limit some, particularly if you included a drug test for a hunting license and/OR gun purchases.

    Where it could be much more useful is if we hold private party sales transactions to the standard of checking for criminal backgrounds AND some form of standardized drug testing. If you are on the hook for a gun that is registered to you being transferred to someone who turns out to be a drug user -- and remember that a hair type drug test can check for user patterns over a period of time, ruling out someone starting to use AFTER a transaction took place - then we could definitely have an effect over time on guns in the hands of drug users.

    The issue becomes one of choosing to be reactive, or proactive. I'm suggesting here that we form the consensus to be proactive in response to this problem.

    I'd be more than willing to prove I'm clean of any drugs, and I'd like to see all the other people who are clean step up, so we can objectively quantify and qualify who is and who is not a drug user that should be prohibited from gun possession, including hunting weapons.

    I would argue that should be done as part of a sane and sensible revision of our drug laws, where we decriminalize use, but apply more civil penalties and prohibitions - like no shooting, no driving, and as effectively we now do with no working, if instead of those things you want to fry your brain on drugs. Think of it as an extension of the concept that you can choose to drink, or you can choose to drive, but you can't do both together.

    I'm not willing to assume someone with a lethal weapon is clean any more than states are willing to assume you can see adequately instead of running an eye check for licensing.

    Because we have reduced such testing to a reasonably cheap and easy, painless process, it is practical.

  4. Dog Gone,

    I don't support monitoring highways for speeders, and I don't go along with your attempts at reasonableness with regard to drug testing. You strike me as someone who is terrified of your fellow human beings. You think that we are drug addled, mentally diseased, and evil at heart. How you can also believe in democracy is beyond my understanding.

    By the way, "proactive" is a creation of the mental health field. It's one of those silly words that people use to sound smart or to fit into the shallow crowd. It has no meaning that goes beyond the better word, active.

  5. dog gone said...
    "Because we have reduced such testing to a reasonably cheap and easy, painless process, it is practical."

    and in violation of the Constitution and a Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that one cannot be forced to give up one Constitutionally protected right to enjoy another. Here, you're proposing that a citizen give up his right to privacy in order to enjoy his 2A rights. Furthermore, what's to prevent a person who successfully passes a drug screen to then go out and use drugs?

    Would you propose drug testing before you can vote? or write publicly? How about a person has to successfully pass a drug test before he can be secure from warrant-less searches?

    Drug tests aren't even required to obtain a driver's license. The only requirement is that a person abstain from being under the influence while operating a motor vehicle and we all know there are more transportation related deaths than firearm related deaths.

  6. Dog gone: “Mandatory drug testing is like monitoring highways to stop speeders.”

    It would be more apt to say it would be like mandatory drug testing for getting/renewing driver’s licenses and registration. You’re cool with that, right?

  7. GCwrites:How many gun owners are drug users? And how many people who go through the process of training and background checks to get a carry license are drug users?

    Background checks only track those who 1. are caught and prosecuted. and 2. reside in states where their conviction is reported to the NCIS - most aren't.

    Therefore, we don't know how many, but we DO know there are a lot of them. The research of people like the journalist in Iowa documents that.

    Testing would determine how many, AND stop them from having guns.

    Your reasoning - your USUAL failed critical thinking is we shouldn't test and we shouldn't count, we should just assume they don't exist in any significant quantities because you don't want them to be quantified or prevented from gun ownership.

    The people who use illegal drugs don't go through the processes that legal gun owners follow. Illegal drug users don't care about the law.

    You don't know that. You don't know that at all. So long as no one tests they can do anything they want. Do you seriously believe that the meth users in rural communities don't go buy their hunting rifles and shot guns and hand guns at the same local stores as everyone else? Ditto ammo?

    There is absolutely NOTHING stopping them from doing so. NOTHING.

    You don't want to acknowledge that gun owners are drug users - including legal gun owners and lets not forget those who people like you will sell to, or swap with, in private transactions where there is no check.

    GC writes :You strike me as someone who is terrified of your fellow human beings.

    Hardly. I'm not the one who feels the need to go armed everywhere, nor do I keep a loaded firearm next to the bed. YOU are the one who lives in fear. Your actions give the lie to your words.

    You think that we are drug addled, Again we have the combination of intellectual dishonesty and failed critical thinking.

    I argue we should test for drug use so that we have an objective measurement more effectively to prevent drug users from easily acquiring legal firearms. The NCIS does not have current or complete drug conviction records. We don't test, so we don't stop, many users from legally acquiring those guns -- meth being a prime drug used in rural areas where users routinely have firearms. We have a problem, it has been identified, and I've proposed a logical solution which doesn't deprive non-drug users from firearms.

    So why do you want to keep those drug users armed?

    mentally diseased,

    again with the intellectual dishonesty, the factual mis-characterization, and of course the ever-present failed critical thinking.

    We have SOME gun owners who are clearly not sane - Jared Loughner, Anders Breivik, the shootist at Virginia Tech, and any number of others as examples of individuals who are dangerously mentally ill with legal guns. To suggest we screen out the dangerously paranoid schizophrenics from gun ownership - the dangerously mentally ill already being a prohibited class of people - is NOT the same thing as believing all gun owners are DANGEROUSLY mentally ill. I think you engage in some delusional thinking, exhibiting marked cognitive biases that are significant flaws in your thought processes, but that is not anything like the same thing as dangerously mentally ill. People who are dangerously mentally ill experience hallucinations and have far more damaged mental capacity.

    So you Greg, very dishonestly, and frankly stupidly, try to equate criticism of where you demonstrate cognitive bias with dangerous mental illness.

    It is not what we have asserted at all. But I have to wonder at just why it is you are so afraid of mental health screening for severe and incapacitating mental illness. There is not any problem of which I am aware of false positives for severe schizophrenia.

    Yet you continue to repeat that intellectually ill-informed, dishonest, and frankly not very bright statement.

  8. And then we have the piece de resistance of gun lunatic stupid and evil at heart..

    Given the weekly multiples of murder suicides, and just plain murders. Given the plethora of death threats that have just this week targeted clumsy football players for failures at a GAME, and given the shootings for example of the adult who blew away kids in a car for threatening to fight with other kids -- yes, I do think there are people who give in to evil impulses.

    What I DON'T do however is the kind of simplistic and frankly STUPID thinking you engage in, which so long as it advances what you want to do, turns a blind eye to the MIXTURE of good and evil that resides in all of us. We are not so simple as to be only good or evil, and therefore I don't believe people, either individually or as a group, ARE ONLY good.

    Rather I recognize that people act impulsively, and I also recognize that people do bad things believing at the time they do them they are doing something right and justified.

    So, I recognize that if people don't have a gun, they are less likely to kill themselves, because the instrumentality of firearms, the lethal EASE of their use, causes more people to end their lives who would otherwise not do so, and who could be helped out of their despair to lead full and relatively happy lives.

    I recognize that without guns, there are far far far fewer murder suicides, far far far fewer incidents of mass killings. NOT because people are good or evil, but because of how the lethality of firearms works with those good or evil impulses.

    You Greg want to make a stupid glittering generality, while ignoring anything substantive about either human nature or firearms. I dislike that kind of oversimplification, that shallow kind of fallacy passing for critical thinking when it is far too superficial to be taken seriously.

    And you wonder why we don't have a lot of respect for your thoughts? It's because they demonstrate consistently poor reasoning.

  9. I would point out Greg that while you love to assert that I'm the one who doesn't see the good in people, you are the one who sticks labels on them that in fact say more about you - about your superficiality of thought, your lack of humanity.

    I don't call people goblins, or claim they forfeit their humanity for doing something wrong.

    I'm the one here, along with my colleagues, who see a more complex and factually accurate mix of good and bad in human beings. It is that very mix of good and bad that is part of what defines us as human. I'm less willing to presume to pass judgment, especially as judge jury, prosecutor and executioner than you are, precisely because I believe there can also be good in people doing bad things, that they should be held accountable through the process and rule of law, not individual eye-for-an-eye retributive so-called justice. I believe people deserve the chance to redeem themselves and repay their debt to society.

    You just want to shoot them any chance possible. I don't need a gun, I don't need to shoot an intruder. I make a much greater effort to find solutions other than lethal violence.

    That would seem to put me far more squarely on the side of believing in the good in people than you and the other gun lunatics.

  10. Dog Gone,

    Again, you show that you can't be concise and you can't speak beyond your prejudices. You're the one who claims that too many gun owners are dangerous. But the large rate of gun ownership in this country and the lowering crime rate suggests that what is really going on is that a small number of gun owners are the continuing problem. The vast majority of us are sane, legal, and responsible. If you doubt that, prove the contrary.