Rendell calls for 'early detection system' for mentally ill

Two high-profile politicians today called for sweeping reforms to the nation’s mental health system that would prevent individuals deemed ill from legally purchasing firearms.

Had numerous concerns about alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner’s mental status placed him on a list restricting his ability to buy a gun, his Jan. 8 rampage might have been prevented, said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, a Democrat.

During a “Face the Nation” appearance, Rendell called for an “early detection system” designed to keep mentally unstable individuals from buying guns.

A “rational debate” is needed on gun-control laws, Rendell said, adding lawmakers should consider questions like whether hunters and other gun owners “need a clip with 33 bullets” like Loughner possessed.

He also called for a federal assault weapons ban, passed in 1994 but allowed by Congress to expire in 2004, to be reinstated.

Giuliani said among the problems that led to the shooting spree, which left six dead and 19 injured, is the nation’s “inability to deal with mental illness.” He urged policy “adjustments” that balance things like an individual’s constitutional right to own firearms with keeping guns out of the hands of unstable people.

“That’s probably the most relevant response” to the shooting, he said.

Asked by host Bob Schieffer if it is time for new gun-control measures, Giuliani said two things must first occur: changes to deal with schizophrenia, and creating a more civil discourse on policy matters.

Once those changes are made, Giuliani said, “I think we can talk about gun laws.”

While most talk on the Sunday shows was about how lawmakers can soften the nation’s rigid political discourse, Rendell had a message for the American public, saying they must begin “discerning differences between” what he called sound infrastructure projects and programs that constitute “wasteful government spending.”

“We can’t stop investing in our growth,” Rendell said. Successful businesses “don’t do that, and neither should we.”