HOT BLAST: States struggle to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill
Dec 23, 2013 | 1385 views |  0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Family members of gun violence embrace each other as they hold a vigil for victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and other victims of gun violence earlier this month at the National Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence at the National Cathedral in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Family members of gun violence embrace each other as they hold a vigil for victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and other victims of gun violence earlier this month at the National Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence at the National Cathedral in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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Over the weekend, The New York Times examined "a central, unresolved issue in the debate over balancing public safety and the Second Amendment right to bear arms: just how powerless law enforcement can be when it comes to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who are mentally ill."

Michael Luo and Mike McIntire wrote:

A vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. But recent mass shootings — outside a Tucson supermarket in 2011, at a movie theater last year in Aurora, Colo., and at the Washington Navy Yard in September — have raised public awareness of the gray areas in the law. In each case, the gunman had been recognized as mentally disturbed but had never been barred from having firearms.

After the Newtown killings a year ago, state legislatures across the country debated measures that would have more strictly limited the gun rights of those with mental illness. But most of the bills failed amid resistance from both the gun lobby and mental health advocates concerned about unfairly stigmatizing people. In Washington, discussion of new mental health restrictions was conspicuously absent from the federal gun control debate.



The reporters looked closely at gun records in several states.

Over the past year in Connecticut, where The Times obtained some of the most extensive records of seizure cases, there were more than 180 instances of gun confiscations from people who appeared to pose a risk of “imminent personal injury to self or others.” Close to 40 percent of these cases involved serious mental illness.

Perhaps most striking, in many of the cases examined across the country, the authorities said they had no choice under the law but to return the guns after an initial seizure for safekeeping.



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