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Should States Share Mental Health Records To Control Gun Ownership?

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Should States Share Mental Health Records To Control Gun Ownership?

gun ownership requirementsRecently, the Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) issued a press release stating that most states and federal agencies are not reporting mental health records to National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

According to gun ownership requirements, State and federal agencies are supposed to notify the NICS database of criminals, drug abusers and domestic violence offenders. Also included on this list, believe it or not, is “seriously mentally ill people.”

At present, the FBI-NICS fact sheet states that, “A person adjudicated mental defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution or incompetent to handle own affairs, including dispositions to criminal charges of found not guilty by reason of insanity or found incompetent to stand trial” should fail a records check and be prohibited from purchasing a firearm.

The issue, according to MAIG, is that this information is not being reported to NICS by state and federal agencies.

MAIG Tactics Can Be Misleading

MAIG commonly points to the tragedies at Virginia Tech and Tucson as consequences of the lack of reporting mental illness.

However, using these two shootings as proof is somewhat deceiving. In the case of the Virginia Tech shooting, the shooter (Seung-Hui Cho) was not reported to the database because he did not fit the criteria, not because the state failed to follow protocol.

Though Cho was diagnosed as being mentally ill, he was not involuntarily committed to an institution. Instead, he was ordered by the court to begin outpatient treatment which is not in the reporting criteria.

Similar circumstances occurred in the case of the Tucson shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. Loughner was suspected of mental illness, but it was never verified prior to the shooting.

He was forced to leave college based on his behavioral issues, but the school offered to allow him back in if he could present a mental health clearance from a certified mental health professional.

Instead, Loughner withdrew from college and such clearance was never sought. He also admitted to drug use, even on his army application; which disqualified him from entering the Army. However, because he was never convicted of a drug related crime it was never reported.

Even though both of these events were tremendous tragedies, neither one points to a failure in the reporting system. Both of these individuals fell into a “gray area” in terms of gun ownership.

When this occurs, the law commonly sides with the Constitution and the right to bear arms. Even though it may be easier to judge the mental instability of both of the shooters now, hindsight is often 20/20.

The MAIG Opposition

gun ownership requirementsAccording to its opposition, MAIG does a lot more to deceive the American public than just spinning the details of the two cases above.

The NRA contends that the Mayoral coalition is not just against illegal guns, but all guns in general. The NRA believes that the MAIG is an anti-gun group; so much so, that they initiated a letter-writing campaign to persuade voters to urge their Mayors to leave the group.

However, it should not be a surprise that these two organizations would butt heads. Though the MAIG members include individuals from all parties, it is largely democrat; placing it on the opposite end of the political spectrum from the NRA.

Nevertheless, MAIG may have a point to some extent. Some states do not report any mental illness cases at all.

It is hard to imagine that all of the individuals in the system, in a given month, fall into the same “gray area” as Cho or Loughner. Though it is possible, it is just not plausible. For more information concerning MAIG’s research and numbers,see the MAIG website.

When dealing with the constitutional rights of Americans, one has to be very careful.

The topic will always be controversial and a middle ground is often difficult to obtain. While better gun control and reporting practices are needed, the Second Amendment must be respected at the same time.

Originally published on

  • Loylk

    Dennis, the shooting at TJ Ribs in Baton Rouge on Friday probably validates your findings about mental illness falling through the cracks. Two men are dead because of it. I knew Levie through my interactions with the coroners office…unfortuntately. Professionally he was a nice, caring guy. The shooter, only 27, was defending in some way his mentally challenged sister… makes it suspicious of the brothers mental state considering the outcome???
    Thanks again for “telling it the way it is!”.

“The thing about the truth is, not a lot of people can handle it.” -Conor McGregor

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