Is South Carolina nuts?

Maybe not the whole state, but a lot of its citizens seem to be. The headline noted the 65 gun permits revoked for mental illness once SC started comparing its mental health database  with its gun permit database. And the lede was the 12 concealed weapons permit applicants who were denied because they came up hot on the mental health check.

But the shocking thing to us was the assertion that the mental health unit of teh State Law Enforcement Division is adding 500 names a week to the database. How many South Carolinians are barking at the moon down there? That’s 26,000 nuts a year! SC has about 4.7 million inhabitants, so just a bit over 1/2 of 1% of them are going bats in a given year.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – The chief of South Carolina’s law enforcement agency says a law meant to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns has already led to 12 people being denied a concealed weapons permit.

Chief Mark Keel told legislators Friday that the State Law Enforcement Division has also revoked 65 permits because of the law approved last May.

The law ensured the names of residents declared mentally ill by a South Carolina court go into a federal database so they can be caught by a background check. It was already illegal to sell guns to someone who is mentally ill. But the lack of reporting meant gun shops didn’t get that information.

Keel says the agency’s new mental health reporting unit averages putting 500 names a week into the database.

via SLED: 65 Gun Permits Revoked.

The 87 mental patients (12 denials + 65 revocations) seem to be the tip of the nutberg.

So we thought we’d check some official data. Is a half percent of a state being nuts, we hate to use the word, but, normal? So we went to NIMH, which ought to have some good statistics on the nation’s laughing-academicians. Turns out, half a percent is nothing, according to the nation’s Official Keeper of the Nut Job Count:

An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.1 When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people.2

Yipes, stripes! That means 1.25 million Palmetto Staters should be nuts, unless the state’s much saner than average.

Except it doesn’t seem right for more than one in four people to be laughing-academy material. So they break it down: 9.5% mood disorders (that doesn’t sound so bad, but wait); 18.1% anxiety disorders, 9.1% personality disorders, plus a percent or so for Schizophrenia or Autism. And it turns out that within each category, there are seriously disabling and “dude, you’re gunning for a phony disability” kinds of illnesses. They also count suicides as mentally ill, even when noting the peak suicide demographic is men over 85. (They might be despairing, but it’s hard to argue these elderly suicides are all nuts).

And yeah, “mood disorders” is a clinical term which doesn’t necessarily mean the teenage sulks, but could encompass full Norman Bates oughta-be-locked-up-itis.

Yes, their numbers don’t add up, and yes, they’re obviously not using the same definition as South Carolina.

Now, here’s another statistical check the Associated (with terrorists) Press reporter could have done, if he were interested in reporting rather than arguing. He could have asked himself… is the proportion of mentally ill people applying for pistol permits greater or lesser than average?

The last year for which SLED has posted the data is 2010, which shows a total of 119,340 pistol permits (the number is certainly much larger in 2014). That means:

  • The percent of SC residents who have a license is approximately: 2.5%.
  • The percent of LTC applicants who were revoked or denied for mental illness is approximately: 0.073%. That’s 73 thousandths of a percent.

And we wonder how many of these 87 will clear their names on appeal, because the mental illness adjudication applies to someone with a similar name, or was a transient thing (i.e. a period of depression not rising to the level of a disorder, resolved) years ago. But even if none of them do, it looks like the permit holders (and applicants) are saner than normal. Whatever “normal” is.

Able was I ere I saw Elba, is all we have to say about that. 


While only up to 2010 stats are fully online, broken down by county, SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) has posted aggregate 2013 stats (the ones we want) as follows:

Active Permits as of December 31, 2013 —– 229,456
Permits Issued in 2013 ———————- 83,012
Permits Denied in 2013 ————————1,272
Permits Renewed in 2013 ——————— 38,617
Permits Revoked in 2013 ———————— 364

That means that:

  • The percent of SC residents who have a license is approximately: 4.9% as of December 31.
  • The percent of LTC applicants who were revoked or denied for mental illness is approximately: 0.038%. That’s 38 thousandths of a percent. The percentage who were denied and revoked for all purposes (including the nut jobs) is aboout 7/10 of a percent.

9 thoughts on “Is South Carolina nuts?

  1. Aesop

    Please, for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, do NOT confuse “diagnosable mental disorder” as being in any way equivalent to being “mentally defective” in Form 4473 terms such that you cannot manage your affairs/are a danger to self/others.

    That is the approximate relation of a “house” to “housefly.”

    Juvenile bedwetting could get you put on the list of those with “diagnosable medical disorder”.
    It’s not at all the same thing as “bat guano moon-barkingly crazy”.

    The lede that is buried is reporting how many of those reports made are baseless, mistaken, or otherwise erroneous, much like the celebrated federal “No Fly” list.

    1. Bill K

      Ah, but doesn’t it make sense, Aesop, for the lists to NOT match up, between ‘diagnosable mental disorder’ and mentally defective? For who is there better to interpret the fine ‘nuances’ of the 4473 regs than the regulators’ finest?

      To paraphrase Hognose, “<Regular was I ere I was regulated.“

      1. Aesop

        A “diagnosable mental disorder”, according to the NIMH, is anything listed in the DSM-IV-TR.

        It includes, for example, things like lycanthropy, wherein the person believes he’s turning into a werewolf. Nota bene that they aren’t actually doing so, they merely think they are.
        However, according to BATFE, unless such belief causes them to become a danger to self or others, become unable to manage their affairs, or be committed to a mental institution, it isn’t a bar to owning a firearm, nor should it be, which is why any list should NEVER match up 1:1.
        Those lists are comparing apples and oranges. Or rather, apples and fruitcakes.

        Everyone diagnosed with a disorder isn’t full barking mad.
        Everyone prescribed psychoactive medications isn’t full barking mad.
        Even someone who thinks they are full barking mad, doesn’t necessarily meet the BATFE’s definitions of full barking mad, which are actually pretty lenient and straightforward.

        And it should be noted that where South Carolina is concerned, exactly like the rest of the South, a certain amount of mental imbalance is inevitable. It provides character and personality in an otherwise drab and repetitive world, and helps one to deal with the humidity and explain one’s relatives.

        (The lycanthropics are advised not to clean pistols loaded with silver bullets, as permanent side affects may result from inadvertent discharges.)

  2. Chad

    This story brings to mind a quote I once read. After SC voted to secede in 1860, one politician that opposed the decision commented that “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.”

  3. Ritchie

    A couple of general considerations occur-the keepers would prefer that the bar not only be low, but buried in an undisclosed location. And the care giving community may not be entirely disinterested in the size of the potential client pool. I suppose I haz a cynical. It that on the list?

    1. Bill K

      Yep, Ritchie. Here you are: DSM-IV-TR 295.0
      Diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia: A. Characteristic symptoms: Two (or more) of the following, each present for a significant portion of time during a 1-month period (or less if successfully treated): (1) delusions (2) hallucinations (3) disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence (4) grossly disorganized or catatonic behaviour (5) negative symptoms, i.e., affective flattening, alogia (poverty of speech), or avolition (lack of motivation) Note: Only one Criterion A symptom is required if delusions are bizarre or hallucinations consist of a voice keeping up a running commentary on the person’s behavior or thoughts
      And for teh cynical you haz:
      295.30 Schizophrenia, Paranoid type: A type of schizophrenia in which the following criteria are met:
      A. Preoccupation with one or more delusions or frequent auditory hallucinations
      B. None of the following is prominent: disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior, or flat or inappropriate affect.

      So just how much of a cynical do you haz? Are you cynical often? Sounds like preoccupied to this MD. :)

  4. Woodsman

    I have to wonder if anyone who at one time or another might have visited a mental health professional for counseling would/could be eventually classified as “problematic” by some party. A dad of a friend of my daughters was in EOD. He was prevented from having a firearm because he had a stressful occupation, from the version I had repeated back to me.

    Taken to an extreme, anyone who might have a headache could potentially be broadly classified as having a mental health issue. It’s not necessarily the real issue, but the classification used to group individuals, IMO. Of course, this does not mean anyone on mood altering medication would ever be addressed under this though…

    1. Bill K

      anyone who might have a headache could potentially be broadly classified as having a mental health issue.

      Woodsman, I’ll bring that up, next time my wife says she has a headache, and see how far that gets me. :)

      What was it that was said a few posts ago, “Crazy in the head, a tiger in bed” or some such? I’m saving that for when the pots start flying.

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