Next step in mental health, gun violence?

Greg Nash

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) has introduced a bill to help prevent the mentally ill from buying guns.

"Too many victims and their families have suffered from gun violence at the hands of dangerously mentally-ill people who were not prevented from purchasing a firearm," Cicilline said. "We cannot even begin to tackle the problem of gun violence in this country without addressing this particular issue."

Cicilline's measure comes in light of the May 23 mass shooting and stabbing spree in Santa Barbara, Calif., that left seven people dead, including the gunman. Police said that Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old former Santa Barbara City College student, had a history of mental illness. But authorities determined that Rodger did not meet the criteria for an involuntary hold despite alerts from his family to the police.

Under current federal statute, people with mental illnesses are only prevented from buying guns if they have been involuntarily institutionalized or a judge has deemed them as mentally ill. Cicilline's legislation would prevent people from buying guns if a mental health professional has determined they are likely to cause harm to themselves or others. 

House Democrats, led by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), also introduced a bill last week to expand the list of people barred from buying guns to include more mental health patients and convicted criminals. It would include individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking or those receiving involuntary mental health services on an outpatient basis, instead of primarily only an inpatient basis.

Last Thursday, the House voted 260-145 to boost funding for the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System by $19.5 million. The measure was an amendment to a 2015 appropriations bill funding the Justice Department, Commerce Department and science programs.  

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