House of Representatives
Office of Chad Campbell
1700 West Washington, Room. 121
Phoenix, Arizona 85007
Dear Representative Campbell,
I have had the distinct honor of working with you many times over the course of the past eight years. While working on Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema’s campaign, I was based out of the coordinated office in district twenty-four – you’re own district – and enjoyed supervising phone banks, and knocking on doors on your behalf. Additionally, I lived right there in district twenty-four for over a year and enjoyed every minute of it. During that year, you were my representative who I would call on to be accountable for legislation I agreed and disagreed with. You have welcomed me into the political discussion with an open door policy; one I have come to appreciate. More than once, I have demanded stricter gun laws, and I have been very vocal about the fact that mental health must be included in the debate. I have also asked relentlessly for better treatment of the mentally ill, and more funding to protect one of our most vulnerable populations.
You recently introduced legislation that made me realize that yes, you have heard my demand for stricter gun laws. And yes, you are in fact working for more funding for those of us inflicted with a mental illness in other bills, but I must have been misunderstood in my request of including mental health in the gun control debate. I know this must be the case, because if you had understood what I meant, I know you would have considered HB2356 to be extreme and frankly a little offensive.
If I am understand the bill correctly, you want to give police officers the right to temporarily seize a firearm if they believe the owner has a mental illness and are a danger to themselves or others. After that, the police officer is to submit an application to the courts to ask that the presumed mentally ill person be evaluated by a doctor.
Problematically, police officers are not doctors. They are not trained specifically in understanding and identifying mental illness. Nor should they be burdened to. Police officers already have a tough enough job, and shouldn’t be expected to play doctors.
Nor should they be expected to be judges. By giving them the authority to remove firearms from the home, even temporarily, you are demanding that a police officer be expected to do the job of an elected or appointed judge. We should not burden our police officers in determining if a mentally ill person is indeed a danger to themselves and others, or indeed, just mentally ill.
This law assumes the very worst in us. Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, folks who own a firearm and are mentally ill are assumed guilty of a crime they have yet to commit. Last I checked, it was not illegal for a person to be mentally ill; nor is it illegal for that same person to own a firearm.
Additionally, it gives the police officers too much power. And even giving the police officer a temporary pass to be a doctor and a judge is somewhat misleading and extremely concerning. For a person to be evaluated, its never a short process. Our mental health hospitals are overburdened, often short on beds and even shorter on staff. Requiring an evaluation for a person to be allowed to get back their own property, is also burdensome on a mentally ill person, who then has to miss work or school. Plus, the experience is never enjoyable, often overwhelming and traumatic.
And neither are court experiences. Our courts are just as overwhelmed, burdened with budget cuts that also makes them short on staff. The process to get ones own possession back then is also time consuming, and now we are asking our mentally ill folks to not only be traumatized by going through a mental health evaluation, but to miss more work or school to go to court hearings. That experience is also neither enjoyable, and indeed overwhelming. All of your actions, those good and bad, those understood and misunderstood, are put on display for a courtroom full of people to hear. It’s embarrassing and it’s traumatizing.
This isn’t how we should treat this vulnerable community.
Instead, we should respect those with a mental illness, as I know you understand. You demonstrate this in wanting to expand mental health services in the Medicaid program and I commend you for that effort. And that’s why I know you must have misunderstood me when I said we needed to include mental health in the gun control debate. The solution is not placing unnecessary burdens on our police and truly traumatizing our vulnerable community; the solution lies in providing better healthcare for those who are mentally ill, better screening before folks buy a firearm, and gun laws that limit the weapons available.
I know you can do better Representative Campbell, so please don’t let me down.
Ray Ceo Jr.