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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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House Bill 1240 would work around those privacy laws by requiring court clerks, and not the state's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, to track and submit those records.

“And there is a procedure in the bill to apply for reinstatement,” he said. “I have not had a cross word from anybody. Now, I haven't had people jump on it, it's not something that the (National Rifle Association) has been down here working on, but I'm sure they're aware of the bill, and if they had a problem with it, they would.”

Gun-control proposals

The push in Oklahoma for better mental health record-keeping reflects legislation being pushed nationwide in the wake of the school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead in December at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Among the list of gun-control proposals outlined by President Barack Obama in the wake of that shooting was a pledge to address barriers to mental health reporting to the federal database.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the database currently hosts 1.2 million records despite an estimated 3 million people nationwide who would not qualify to own a firearm because of their mental health history.

Delynn Fudge, federal grants division director for the state's District Attorney's Council, said Oklahoma meets federal record-sharing standards in nine of the 10 categories of people prohibited from owning a firearm.

Compliance with the mental health records category, she said, would help further secure a federal grant that brought the state $2.6 million last year alone.

“We've been working on this a couple years now, and it's kind of finally coming to the place we want it to be,” Fudge said.

“When you introduce a new concept, it doesn't always happen the first year, so you keep at it, you talk to enough people that your concept takes hold.”