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Archive for Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gun database omits many mental health records

April 26, 2007

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— Since 1968, federal law has prohibited the sale of guns to anyone adjudged mentally ill. But more than half the states cannot - or will not - supply the necessary mental health records to the FBI database that is used to conduct background checks on would-be gun buyers.

That could change following last week's massacre at Virginia Tech. The U.S. House is considering a bill that would encourage states to share mental health records with the federal government by giving them more than $1 billion in grants to help cover the costs.

Privacy laws and lack of technical ability now prevent 28 states from sharing such information with the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System based in Clarksburg, W.Va., according to a Justice Department report.

"Every one of these records that is not transferred is the record of someone who federal law has said is too dangerous to buy a gun," said Dennis Henigan, legal director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

In some cases, the proposed federal law would override state privacy laws that prevent police agencies from obtaining mental health records. In others, it would require costly changes to how mental health information is collected and stored.

A 2005 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that about 18 states cite privacy laws as an obstacle to sharing complete mental health records, and 10 others cite inadequate communication between agencies, incomplete records or lack of resources.

West Virginia, for example, does not report involuntary psychiatric commitments to the FBI because the state doesn't know how many such commitments there are.

Involuntary commitment in West Virginia is essentially a county procedure. And the counties don't report the outcome of those procedures to the state.

"We don't have a central state database," said Jennifer Bundy, spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court of Appeals, which oversees the state's court system. The court is working on a computer system that would gather that information, Bundy said, but it won't be completed until 2010.

Other states face legal obstacles. In Pennsylvania, the state police can use mental health records for background checks, but a state privacy law prevents them from sharing the information with the FBI, said Jack Lewis, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police.

In creating the background check system, Congress passed a law in 1993 that said states must supply mental health records on people who have been declared mentally defective by or have been involuntarily committed. But in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that requirement, saying states cannot be forced to take part in a federal program of this sort.

"It's a voluntary process," said Jerome Pender, deputy assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which includes the database. "There's no requirement."

The states that report at least some mental health records to the FBI are Kansas, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, according to the FBI.

Between 1998 and 2005, more than 62 million background checks were conducted through the database. The latest federal figures estimate 980,000 gun permits were denied for various reasons at the local, state or federal level during that time. The system does not break down denials by category, but convicted felons, illegal immigrants and people with restraining orders against them are among those barred from buying guns.

Comments

susanhenry03 5 years, 7 months ago

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saintjoseph 5 years, 7 months ago

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staff04 5 years, 7 months ago

"Mentally defective has been defined as a danger to self or others"This reads clumsy, so I'd like to clarify.In order to be adjudicated as mentally defective, one must pose an immediate or persistent danger to one's self or others.

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staff04 5 years, 7 months ago

For all who have asked "what constitutes mentally ill?"It doesn't matter, in this case, because the 1968 Gun Control Act doesn't make it illegal for someone who is mentally ill to own or possess firearms. It makes it illegal for someone who has been "adjudicated" as "mentally defective" (the law's words, not mine) or involuntarily committed to a mental institution to own firearms.Mentally defective has been defined as a danger to self or others and adjudicated means before a court of law.-------------------------------------------------------------"What constitutes being mentally ill? Somebody that has a few childhood issues? Somebody that hears voices? The former king of Syria exiled to a satellite orbiting the moon and astrally projecting his or her body onto earth?"Maybe all of those things do constitute mental illness, but the law makes absolutely zero, zilch, nada references to mental illness, so your point is?"Not to mention that this type of system pretty much lays open records that should be private. This would make it so that all your private conversations with your psychiatrist would suddenly be open to anyone deciding to run a background check on your name."Clearly, you know nothing about the NICS system. If a gun dealer runs a background check on you, the only information that they receive is notification that either yes, the individual in question MAY purchase a firearm at that time, or no, the individual may NOT purchase a firearm. Nothing more, nothing less."Imagine, if you will, when you talk about being molested by your uncle, or that strange recurring dream involving your sister and a Llama. Suddenly your neighbor, enemies, even friends will know it if they ran a simple background check."Only licensed gun dealers and law enforcement may conduct background checks, but that still doesn't make your point, as I outlined what information is available through a background check.----------------------------------------------------crazyks, on the hospitalization thing, I believe I outlined that above. Everything else that you listed would not be in a person's background check file.In fact, when information is transferred from the states to NICS, all that is transferred is eligibility to purchase a firearm.--------------------------------------------------------------------To sum up, no, your doctor/therapist/pharmacist/neighbor/enemy/llama lover cannot directly do anything to affect your firearms rights without due process.OK? Back to the bunker!

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brujablanco 5 years, 7 months ago

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been_there 5 years, 7 months ago

I know a dangerous mentally ill person that has a closet full of guns. Has been committed by a judge several times as a danger to others but nobody can stop him from having guns. He has threatened to kill people many times but gets off because he is mentally ill. Something to think about.

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kevin0045 5 years, 7 months ago

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knowl 5 years, 8 months ago

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rosy8235 5 years, 8 months ago

The mentally unstable people are not advice to have gun with them.License of gun should be given to the responsible persons..As we came across my such incidences in schools and colleges..==============================================Rosy http://www.drugtreatments.com/alabama

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greenlaura 5 years, 9 months ago

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Windlass 6 years, 11 months ago

Suggested Reading for you, snapcrackle: A Necessary Evil by Gary Wills since there's so much you still have to learn.

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Flap Doodle 6 years, 12 months ago

"There are ten guns for each man, woman, and child in this country." Citation, please?

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Windlass 6 years, 12 months ago

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, starring Jack Nicholson in the leading role, is the closest rendering of a mental institution I've ever seen on television.

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Windlass 6 years, 12 months ago

If psychiatrists had their way everyone would be mentally ill. The mental health offices in every area I've seen are typically empty of clients. No one goes there. No one likes to because the whole system is a cash-draining mess, a warehousing agency.

And everyone knows now that there is no such thing as privacy. Everyone knows now that anything they tell their doctor will be blabbed to the whole town by the time that client gets home from seeing the doctor.

The thing about guns is that the laws really mean that anyone who is declared mentally ill has no right of self-defense, although any one can get a gun in this country. There are ten guns for each man, woman, and child in this country. It delights the NRA. Anyone can bet that, with or without a law, guns are around for the asking. Let's be serious, when does any one REALLY obey the law? Any law?

There is a diagnosis for everything under the sun. Attention Deficit Disorder, for instance. What crap! But then that's just more people who get sent to the psychiatrist: More people who no longer have a say in their own lives for the rest of their lives.

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Linda Endicott 6 years, 12 months ago

But he's got a point. What constitutes being mentally ill?

Going to a therapist? People go to therapists for all kinds of different things, and the grand majority of them aren't at all violent.

Taking medication? But then, if medications for mental illness are as effective as professionals say they are, then wouldn't it be better for someone with problems to be on medication? And what medications? Is a mild anti-depressant considered better than a stronger one?

A diagnosis? But there is a whole spectrum of severity there, no matter what the diagnosis is. Not to mention that it's kind of like taking your car to the mechanic...you could go to ten different mental health professionals, and receive a different diagnosis from each one as to what you have, or don't have.

Hospitalization? Voluntary or involuntary? Isn't it considered better if a person realizes they have a problem, and seeks treatment themselves, instead of being forced into it? And if they had to be forced into it, how effective is any treatment they received?

And what of this magical five year thing that Kansas has? Psychiatrists can't even agree on when or if a person is "cured" or "better", let alone putting a time frame on it. Why five years, as opposed to one, or ten?

The main problem with the laws in most states is that mental health records are considered health records just the same as if you had gallbladder surgery, and as such are covered by HIPPA.

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scenebooster 6 years, 12 months ago

"Imagine, if you will..."

...an example of hyperbole.

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Confrontation 6 years, 12 months ago

If someone has a major mental health issue, then they shouldn't get a gun. If that requires including this on a background check, then so be it. Yes, I know there are other ways to get weapons.

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gr 6 years, 12 months ago

"and lack of technical ability now prevent 28 states from sharing such information"

How about printing and mailing it? That would meet the reporting requirements. What the FBI does with those reports is its problem.

"people who have been declared mentally defective" I bet that's a fun statement!

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Ragingbear 6 years, 12 months ago

What constitutes being mentally ill? Somebody that has a few childhood issues? Somebody that hears voices? The former king of Syria exiled to a satellite orbiting the moon and astrally projecting his or her body onto earth?

Not to mention that this type of system pretty much lays open records that should be private. This would make it so that all your private conversations with your psychiatrist would suddenly be open to anyone deciding to run a background check on your name.

Imagine, if you will, when you talk about being molested by your uncle, or that strange recurring dream involving your sister and a Llama. Suddenly your neighbor, enemies, even friends will know it if they ran a simple background check.

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