Essay on Laws That Protect the Mentally Ill from Purchasing a Firearm

Submitted By MomoPacheco
Words: 1111
Pages: 5

Seems like every state has some kind of bill pending that would limit or prohibit ownership of a firearm by a person who has a mental illness.

I looked at Florida’s bill last night and did a Homer Simpson “D’oh” after reading it. You know legislation is messed up when it contains phrases like, “as provided in sub-sub-subparagraph b.(II).” What?

The Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved the NRA-backed measure on Monday. I expect it will move up the food chain fairly quickly and by summer, it will be law.

As someone who has depression, hypomania, alcoholism, a couple of suicide attempts and 12 years of sitting in courtrooms covering humanity’s inhumanity as a reporter for the local newspaper, I would like to weigh in on this bill; It is a subterfuge deliberately created with so many bureaucratic obstacles and constitutional pitfalls that it is destined to fail even if it passes.

The bill (HB 1355) would expand the definition of commitment to a mental institution to include those who voluntarily agree to outpatient or inpatient treatment and would prohibit them from buying guns, applying for or keeping a concealed weapons permit.

Sounds like an admirable thing to do. While the current focus of such laws is to protect us from homicidal, mentally ill “lunatics” (a Wayne LaPierre word – not mine), it will more likely save more lives by preventing suicide, which is far more common among people with mental illnesses than homicide.

The bill requires a “preventative assessment” that enables the state to suspend a person’s right to purchase or possess a gun or ammunition and obtain a concealed weapons permit for at least 90 days after a physician determines they are a threat to themselves or others.

Hurdle #1: The bill requires a physician to notify the Florida Department of Law Enforcement within 24 hours of such a finding. Do you have any idea how many suicidal people end up in emergency rooms having their stomachs pumped after botched suicide attempts? Then there are self-inflicted gunshot wound and wrist slashings.

What about alcohol poisoning and unintended overdoses? These people are clearly a danger to themselves and possibly others. Do these people lose their ability to purchase, possess, “or to have in his or her care, custody or control a firearm or ammunition, or to carry a concealed weapon for at least 90 days?” Does this mean emergency room physicians must do a preventative assessment on these patients and fill out the paperwork and submit it to the FDLE within 24 hours of the patient coming into the ER?

Hurdle #2: How are we going to make sure that a person who was court-ordered to a 30-day drug treatment program won’t be released and go home to their guns and ammunition? Are we going to expect them to surrender their weapons and ammo or are we going to have an official go to the house and remove them? You think the NRA is going to stand for that? And who gets custody of those weapons and ammunition for the remainder of those 90 days or as long as it takes for the person with a “firearm disability” to get well and petition the court to get their firearms back?

If you want objective understanding of what this bill will do, look at the “Government Sector Analysis” done by the Senate staff. Because the bill requires the state to issue a 90-day-suspension of a concealed-weapons permit upon a finding of a “firearm disability,” “an indeterminate number of suspensions would result.”

Hurdle #3: Florida has issued more than 1 million concealed weapons permits and the way the proposed bill is worded, a gun owner could lose their concealed weapons permit because of what is said during a counseling session. The agency that issues concealed-weapons permits ” would have to track any licensee whose license was suspended pursuant to the bill as the (agency) would be required to automatically reinstate the license after 90 days,” if the “firearm disability” is not renewed by the