In the past three years, one national gun safety group says, Oklahoma has submitted just three names to a federal database designed to help keep weapons from being sold to mentally incompetent people. Three names. Texas has provided about 200,000.
A bill making its way through the Legislature would result in more names being submitted. House Bill 1240, which is headed to the Senate after getting House approval, would save lives without stepping on Second Amendment rights.
The bill would require county clerks to submit to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System the names of everyone whom a court has found to be a danger to himself or others, lack the mental capacity to manage his own affairs or has been found insane in a criminal case or incompetent to stand trial.
The database, which is used by firearms dealers, also contains the names of others who are banned from buying guns, such as felons.
Under federal and state law, guns can't be sold to the mentally incompetent. HB 1240 would take the onus of tracking and submitting mental health records to NICB off of the state's mental health agency, which is limited by privacy laws, and instead allow court clerks to do it.
The Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police supports the proposed new law, which provides an avenue for a person to apply for reinstatement. The association's president, Norman McNickle of Stillwater, says the reason for the support is simple: “We just think those records are important to keep guns out of the hands of people who aren't supposed to have them.”
The Sandy Hook school shooting in December may be providing momentum for this bill, but a change has been needed in Oklahoma for some time. HB 1240 needs to make it to the governor's desk, where it should quickly checked and signed.