Keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill is the aim of House Bill 308, which was filed last week by Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville.
“We want only the right folks to be able to buy a firearm,” said Damron, right. “That does not include the mentally ill. I think most gun owners would stand behind that.” Damron is an ally of the National Rifle Association.
The bill covers a loophole in state law. Though the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 requires background checks when someone buys a gun and prohibits the sale of guns to people “adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution,” Kentucky does not require courts to give their mental health records to the FBI, The Lexington Herald-Leader‘s John Cheves reports. Since 1998, Kentucky has only submitted four records.
Damron’s proposal would require state courts to inform the Kentucky State Police when someone is adjudged mentally incompetent or sent to a mental institution. The KSP would then notify the FBI, which in turn would add the names to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The names would only be those of mentally ill people who have been documented by the courts. Those who voluntarily commit themselves to a mental institution or who are treated for mental health issues would be protected by privacy laws.
The gap in the law, which exists in many states, went under a national microscope when Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and himself on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007. More than a year before the shooting, a judge had deemed Cho dangerously mentally ill following a stalking incident. When Jared Loughner killed six people and injured many others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in Tucson, Ariz., the gap again gained national attention. However, Loughner is not known to have been a patient in an institution, so it is not clear if his mental health issues were documented. (Read more)