Oklahoma police chiefs endorse mental health checks for gun buyers

The Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police announced Monday it would support the inclusion of the Oklahoma's mental health patient records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: March 18, 2013
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A federal database that tracks people prohibited from buying a firearm may soon include the names of Oklahomans with certain mental health issues.

A bill that would require the state's county court clerks to submit to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System the names of those adjudicated mentally incompetent has passed the House and is awaiting Senate approval.

Monday, the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police announced it also would support the inclusion of the state's mental health records in the federal background check database system.

“In many of the instances that have occurred around the country where there have been mass shootings (the shooter) has at some point or another been diagnosed as mentally ill,” said Norman McNickle, association president and director of public safety for Stillwater.

“We just think those records are important to keep guns out of the hands of people who aren't supposed to have them.”

Federal and state law prohibits the sale of firearms to people who have been adjudicated mentally incompetent, but Oklahoma is among several states that does not currently submit its mental health records to the database.

Adjudicated mentally defective means a court has determined a person is dangerous to himself or others, lacks the mental capacity to manage his affairs, has been found incompetent to stand trial or has been found insane by a court in a criminal case.

Federally licensed firearms dealers are required by law to run the names of gun purchasers against the national database at the point of sale.

The database also keeps the names of other prohibited persons, such as felons.

But Oklahoma has only sent three mental health records to the federal database since 2009, according to the national gun safety group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Texas, by comparison, has sent nearly 200,000.

Because of strict privacy laws, mental health conditions are currently only self-reported by prospective gun purchasers in Oklahoma, Martin said.

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