POSTED: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 6:39pm
UPDATED: Saturday, February 2, 2013 - 12:54pm
In all the talk about gun violence and gun control, one thing people seem to agree on is the need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally impaired.
It’s easy to say…”keep crazy people from getting guns.”
And certainly that’s a necessary goal.
But can we do it and will it work?
State Senator Kevin Eltife agrees completely, but it’s not as easy as that.
“Honestly, Roger,” Eltife told me, “We have underfunded mental health services in the state of Texas and we have underfunded mental health services in this country. And really, I believe that’s where the focus ought to be.”
Dr. Garen Wintemute heads the Violence Prevention Program at the University of California.
“You can’t buy or keep a gun if you’re a felon,” he says. “You can’t buy or keep a gun if you are a controlled substance addict. And notice, alcohol is specific ally excluded from the list of controlled substances. You can’t buy a gun if you’re nuts.”
As the law stands now, to be denied a gun you have to have been adjudicated mentally ill by a judge.
That a very high bar.
And that leaves a lot of troubled folks legally able to purchase a firearm.
“As a practical matter,” Wintemute says, “these prohibitions only apply to sales through licensed retailers. If you are prohibited and you know it, in most of the country you just buy from a private party.”
“We’ve got to strengthen the database and the background check as well,” according to Eltife. “You can’t fix everything. We don’t live in a perfect world. But what we can do is properly fund mental health. You know, if someone gets cancer, everyone rushes to their aid, helps them make sure they get the proper treatment for cancer. Mental illness in this country still has a stigma on it. And we have to treat it as the disease that it is and provide help for parents, children and adults who need our help.”