Going public about their son’s suicide for the first time since his death in April, Saddleback Church founders Rick and Kay Warren told CNN’s Piers Morgan on Tuesday that the laws intended to protect the mentally ill are the biggest obstacle to getting them help.
Reforming the mental health system could make a difference for the mentally ill, the Warrens said. Imposing new gun restrictions, it was clear, would not.
“If you are determined, you’re going to figure out a way to take your life,” Rick Warren told Morgan.
Living in California, which has some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on firearms, kept Matthew Warren from being able to buy a gun legally, the Warrens told Morgan.
But it didn’t stop him from buying one illegally and going to great lengths to hide its source, apparently even filing off the serial number so it couldn’t be traced after his death. The death capped a series of suicide attempts for a 27-year-old man who had considered taking his own life for at least 10 years.
The real problem is mental health-laws, the couple said.
“Give the families more power in dealing with mentally ill people and their families,” Rick Warren said.
Kay Warren agreed.
Mental health laws set up to defend the privacy and autonomy of the mentally ill “actually stand in the way many times of getting them the help they need,” she said, while acknowledging the delicate balance of rights versus security.
“The right to privacy and that right to autonomy, it’s a dance,” she said. “I don’t have good answers. It’s a dance. So we’ve got to do a better job with that.”
The ferociously anti-gun Morgan was unusually respectful throughout the interview, but he might have been allowing his own views – reflexive distaste for firearms and an unjustified faith in the power of the law — to slip in to a question near the end.
Did they Warrens think they might have been able to save their son’s life if they’d gone to the police when they knew he had an illegal weapon?
“No, I don’t,” Kay Warren said.
“Sitting here in this moment, it’s very clinical,” she said. “It’s very … we can second guess all over the place. But in that moment when you have a mentally ill person who’s telling you they’re going to take their life, and it’s your son and you don’t want him to take his life, the choices — mental illness creates such horrendous choices for families.”
“We had that problem time and time again,” Rick Warren said. “What we knew was best for Matthew, we couldn’t do.”