Skip to comments.Mental Records Missing From Gun Database
Posted on 11/26/2005 5:31:11 PM PST by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON - In Alabama, a man with a history of mental illness killed two police officers with a rifle he bought on Christmas Eve. In suburban New York, a schizophrenic walked into a church during Mass and shot to death a priest and a parishioner. In Texas, a woman taking anti-psychotic medication used a shotgun to kill herself.
Not one of their names was in a database that licensed gun dealers must check before making sales even though federal law prohibits the mentally ill from purchasing guns.
Most states have privacy laws barring such information from being shared with law enforcement. Legislation pending in Congress that has bipartisan support seeks to get more of the disqualifying records in the database.
In addition to mandating the sharing of mental health records, the legislation would require that states improve their computerized record-keeping for felony records and domestic violence restraining orders and convictions, which also are supposed to bar people from purchasing guns.
Similar measures, opposed by some advocates for the mentally ill and gun-rights groups, did not pass Congress in 2002 and 2004.
The FBI, which maintains the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, has not taken a position on the bill, but the bureau is blunt about what adding names to its database would do.
"The availability of this information will save lives," the FBI said in a recent report.
More than 53 million background checks for gun sales have been conducted since 1998, when the NICS replaced a five-day waiting period. More than 850,000 sales have been denied, the FBI reported; in most of those cases, the applicant had a criminal record.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., says millions of records are either missing or incomplete. "The computer is only as good as the information you put in it," McCarthy said.
In the Alabama case, police say Farron Barksdale ambushed the officers as they arrived at the home of his mother in Athens, Ala., on Jan. 2, 2004. Barksdale had been committed involuntarily to mental hospitals on at least two occasions, authorities said.
Facing the death penalty, he has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease and defect.
The shootings led Alabama lawmakers to share with the FBI the names of people who have been committed involuntarily to mental institutions. But just 20 other states provide NICS at least some names of people with serious mental illness, a disqualifier for gun purchases under federal law since 1968.
Shayla Stewart had been hospitalized five times in Texas, twice by court order. Yet Stewart was able to buy a shotgun at a Wal-Mart in 2003 because Texas considers mental health records confidential.
The same is true in New York, where Peter Troy was twice admitted to mental hospitals but bought a .22-caliber rifle that he used in the shootings inside a Long Island church in March 2002. Troy is serving consecutive life terms for the killings.
As a result of the church shootings, McCarthy and Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., introduced legislation that year to close the gaps in the background check system. The bill would have required the states to give the FBI their records and provided $250 million in grants to cover their costs.
The bill passed the House without opposition but stalled in the Senate. In 2004, the measure again had the support of lawmakers who support gun rights, but it did not pass Congress.
McCarthy, whose husband was among six people shot to death on a Long Island Rail Road train in 1993, has introduced it again this year, but it has not yet been taken up by a House Judiciary subcommittee.
Sen. Larry Craig (news, bio, voting record), R-Idaho, a National Rifle Association board member, was a sponsor of the bill in the last Congress and continues to support it, spokesman Dan Whiting said. The NRA supports the concept, but it has not taken a position on McCarthy's legislation, spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said.
Michael Faenza, president and chief executive of the National Mental Health Association, said forcing states to share information on the mentally ill would violate patient privacy and contribute to the stigma they face.
"It's just not fair. On the one hand, we want there to be very limited access to guns," Faenza said. "But here you're singling out people because of a medical condition and denying them rights held by everyone else."
Several states have determined that they can flag residents who should not be allowed to buy a gun without compromising the privacy of mental health patients, said Matt Bennett, a spokesman for Americans for Gun Safety, which supports the bill.
Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America, said adding records to the database is the wrong idea. "Our idea of improving NICS is to abolish it," Pratt said. "There is this continuing assumption that a gun buyer is guilty until proven innocent."
The states that provide some or all mental health records are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
On the Net:
National Instant Criminal Background Check System: http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/nics/index.htm
Americans for Gun Safety: http://www.americansforgunsafety.com/
Gun Owners of America: http://www.gunowners.org
Information on the bill, H.R. 1415, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/
They can't focus on the madmen and criminals because they are too busy trying to prevent honest responsible citizens from getting guns.
Who will define what "mentally-ill" is?
Will someday the act of voting for a Republican or being associated with the NRA, GOA, etc... be considered a form of mental illness?
They seem to be trying to do this in Massachusettes at present.
People with recognized mental illness have no business owning firearms. Besides, why does Howard Dean need a gun?
To me prohibiting firearms purchases from those who have serious mental disabilities is common sense. The "patient" forfeits his privacy when he completes the background check which is required for public safety just as an airline pilot who has a serious drug or alcohol problem forfeits his privacy by being required to take the appropriate tests required to assure safety. Most important, those who oppose such testing only provide more ammunition for the anti-gun crowd.
I'm an LEO and I am also a former FFL holder that has some knowledge of both sides of the fence on this topic.
The thing about a persons mental condition is that in order to be refused "Permission To Purchase" which is what the federal form is for and not "Registration of a Firearm" is that you have to be Judicially Restricted from firearm purchase. In other words you have to be taken before a court of law and be charged by the Judge that you are not to purchase or own a firearm because of your clinicly determined mental condion. This does not mean that if you had a bad romantic breakup and spent the weekend in a clinic that you can no longer own a firearm.
Between domestic violence and felony convictions there are many that can no longer possess a weapon legally. Some are unjustly forbidden in my opinion due to divorce domestic charges levied against men unjustly by women to adjecate their divorce proceedings with these charges of violence against them. I see it all of the time in my job and I still have to charge the subject or both subjects and let the judge and jury determine who is telling the truth.
I guess I have seen domestic violence charges used as a weapon to many times instead of a defense against real violence in these situations.
Most states have privacy laws barring such information from being shared with law enforcement.
Well, only one solution to that problem: Make firearm ownership as widespread as possible, so that they no longer appear to be something out of the ordinary, and that therefore crazy people won't develop an irrational fixation on them.
It's as though you were to heavily restrict ownership of knives or matches. That would instantly turn them into objects of obsession for certain characters.
Now that is an interesting thought.
Unfortunately, this is sort of tacit admission that cops are set against gun owners in the great gun ownership debate. Too bad, I wish they were on our side and not against us.
"Common sense?" What is "serious?" What is a "mental disability?" Who gets to decide these questions? Chuck Schumer? Hillary Clinton? You use the words and the mechanisms of gun grabbers - nebulous, undefined and expansive terms (like "assault weapon" or "sniper rifle") that can mean anything and everything, and anyone who disagrees lacks "common sense."
The "patient" forfeits his privacy when he completes the background check which is required for public safety
There is zero evidence that any such gun control law actually enhances public safety, and you choose to abrogate a Constitutional right based on nothing other than the words of gun grabbers to do so. (If there is such evidence, please provide it.)
Most important, those who oppose such testing only provide more ammunition for the anti-gun crowd.
Are you sure you're not a gun grabber? "Please support and adopt the following gun control laws, or it will merely provide more support to the gun grabbers." When we sell out this round, which new laws will you advise us to sell out? Mandatory storage? Bans on which weapons? No CCW anywhere? They too have been promised will "enhance public safety" - also without any evidence of actually doing so.
I'm an LEO and I am also a former FFL holder that has some knowledge of both sides of the fence on this topic.
"Unfortunately, this is sort of tacit admission that cops are set against gun owners in the great gun ownership debate. Too bad, I wish they were on our side and not against us."
What are you talking about? Are you so blindly biased that you interpret that I am against the common gun owner?
My point was that many male gun owners are unjustly accused of domestic violence charges to support the divorce cases of women. I also believe it is supported or even suggested by lawyers and is used as a tool against you. Duh!
The problem is that the law has to be upheld and that I have to arrest a subject with a warrant issued against them without choice. A judicial commissioner will issue a warrant when there was not even a call made or scene to determine who was the aggressor or who was not.Many warrants are coordinated through a womens abuse office and not our intervention. So Joe Public has to appear in court and face a judge with only her allegations to the commissioner and Representative from Haven of Hope or who ever to go on.
Just to make you feel better, I have answered calls where the female placed the call to 911 and she was the one determined the aggressor upon arrival. She was the one that went to jail,I remember one proclaiming that I could not take her into custody because she was the one who made the call. She was determined to be the aggressor and he was the victim of her violent behavior so she went to jail.
My only admission is that the system is biased, not the LEO. Your Vote for legislators is what makes the laws not us.
Now to address the other side. I am not biased against the female gender, but sometimes when the shoe fits it just fits. I'm not saying that all women do this or that all men are unjustly accused. But I am saying it happens many times.
To first address your implied innuendo that I am a "gun grabber", I possess a firearm and can provide you with my NRA membership number. If you are serious and not rhetorical in your question what is a "mental disability" I need only remind you that in our society psychologists and psychiatrists and other mental health experts make these determinations routinely in the public interest about an individuals mental stability and capacity to perform certain functions or to serve in certain capacities -- including the U.S. military. On the personal level I know some people who have been diagnosed as mentally incompetent by professionals and -- thank God! - have been precluded from purchasing firearms. Even in the original post the FBI said that such tests "will save lives". Or is the FBI part of your conspiratorial group of imaginary "gun grabbers"? Even such pro-gun researchers as John Lott ("More Guns, Less Crime") says that the prevention of psychologically unstable people from acquiring firearms is just as important as preventing felons from acquiring them. And yes, if we have no psychological standards for firearm possession we will indeed become the poster boys and laughing-stocks of the Schumers and anti-gun lobby. I can see them citing the very same thing that was mentioned in the original post about the person with a history of mental illness who murdered two policemen. And I can hear their laughter at the stupidity of the pro-gun advocates who want to arm such.
Would you include folks suffering from depression? That's going to cover millions and millions of folks. Things like schizophrenia I could agree with. But I think that allowing this one is giving too much power to the government. I could see a day when the liberals are in charge and a pattern of behavior becomes a pathology. Like membership in progun organizations and having a CCW permit was linked to being in a militia by Janet Reno and Clinton. She once said that anybody who attended church more than once a week; who believed in the 2nd coming of Christ; and who owned a gun was a candidate for "government intervention." I know, I saw the CNN interview where she said that! I think anybody who has been adjudicated by a court of law as mentally incompetent should be subject to the application of current law and that no further laws are needed.
One American in five suffers from a mental disorder in any given year, but two-thirds do not seek treatment because of shame or cost of care. After a background report by Susan Dentzer, Surgeon General David Satcher talks about the the report he presented today at the White House.
I have mixed feeling about the issue. A person wise enough to realize a mental problem exists and seeks treatment will lose 2nd Amendment rights. A not so wise person who ducks the issue and never seeks treatment will keep the rights.
lol, what about ADD/ADHD? Ban them from guns too? heh heh... :)
As far as I know, at this time it is impossible to detect beforehand when someone will go beserk and start shooting. I can't see how anyone can make a case for witholding firearms from the "mentally ill" except in the most extreme cases.
In my psych training in nursing school, we were taught that we are all a different shade of gray--meaning that each person's mental facilities are unique to that person, and that all of us have some sort of mental "quirk".
I guess the gun grabbers must think that they have it all figured out, and are ready to start labeling people according to some arbitrary norm they have developed.
I wonder if the day will come when psychiatrists will be charged with a crime if some patient of theirs commits a gun crime.
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