There's no question at all that Cho should not have been allowed to buy a gun, because a court found him to be mentally ill:Don't Let Mentally Ill Buy, Lock, and Load
Think that the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act keeps people the legal system has deemed mentally ill from buying a gun? Not in New Mexico.
The  law update was prompted by the Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, deemed mentally ill after stalking two female students. But because Virginia didn't report Cho's mental health history to the Brady background check system, he was able to buy handguns and use them. To kill 32 people.
Seung Hui Cho never received the treatment ordered by a judge who declared him dangerously mentally ill less than two years before his rampage at Virginia Tech, law enforcement officials said, exposing flaws in Virginia's labyrinthine mental health system, including confusion about the law, spotty enforcement and inadequate funding.There was a breakdown in governance, and people died. But the slippery slope appears in the Albuquerque Journal editorial (note: I'd link it, but they have it behind a pay wall*):
What is clear is that this is not a solution in search of a problem. UpFront columnist Thom Cole reported New Mexico had almost 1000 involuntary commitments of mentally ill persons last year alone.The shell covering the pea just moved. Many (perhaps most) involuntary commitments are not people who have been found to be mentally ill. For example, if the police respond to a reported suicide attempt, the person is almost certainly going to be transported to a mental hospital for short term observation. This is clearly the right thing to do, but this decision was made by the responding Law Enforcement officers, not by a Court of law weighing evidence.
Oh, come on Borepatch, I hear you say, this wouldn't be abused. Oh yeah? Via Stephany, we find this:
And so to the Albuquerque Journal editorial. To fix a failure of governance, they propose a policy where we already see repeated breakdown in governance.
When Lois Kamenitz arrived at Pearson International Airport in November, hoping to board a flight to California, she was stunned to learn that U.S. border officials were barring her entry. The reason: Years ago, she attempted suicide.
The 64 year-old Toronto woman was fingerprinted and photographed. She questioned the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer about how he accessed her medical records. He said he didn’t. Instead, he knew police had attended her Toronto home in 2006 because she had done “violence to self.”
It’s not an isolated incident, says Ryan Fritsch, legal counsel for the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office. He has heard of about eight similar cases in the past year, all involving non-criminal contact between police and people with mental health issues — records of contact that end up at the Department of Homeland Security.
“These kinds of disclosures and the retention of this kind of information has a chilling effect on persons with mental illness,” said Fritsch, who fears people will think twice before calling 911. “A mental crisis should not be a lifelong sentence for stigma and discrimination.”
My take is that this won't make a lot of difference in the very ill - their conditions are serious enough that they'll be picked up by the system (as indeed Cho was). Where it will make a great difference is with the borderline cases - people who suffer from depression, for example. People will think twice before seeing a doctor for, say, Prozac if they think that they'll end up in some database somewhere, and may lose some of their rights.
It's a terrible policy recommendation, from people who consider themselves well meaning and well informed. They're certainly not well informed. Society has made admirable strides in dialing down the stigma of mental illness. The Albuquerque Journal editors simply don't see that they're proposing to dial it back up, for no benefit.
* Helpful suggestion to the Albuquerque Journal: while it may make sense to put your hard news behind a pay wall, the idea of asking the Internet to pay for your opinion is absurd. It's not like there isn't plenty of free opinion to be found on the 'Net.