Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has pulled his name off of an NRA-backed bill that purports to strengthen background checks for gun purchases, following reports that the measure would make it easier for individuals who were involuntarily committed to mental institutions to obtain firearms. Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) are the two remaining Democrats still associated with the measure, which is being touted by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as a bipartisan approach to strengthening the existing background check system.
On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Blumenthal was withdrawing his support, “saying in an interview that he was no longer comfortable with the bill because of ‘serious unintended consequences‘ related to provisions governing the mentally ill.” The NICS Reporting Improvement Act (S. 480), which was “drafted in consultation with the NRA,” clarifies existing regulations prohibiting mentally ill people from purchasing weapons from federally licensed dealers — the bill specifies that people who are incompetent to stand trial, plead innocent by reason of insanity in a criminal trial, or pose an imminent danger to themselves or others must be included in the federal background check database used by federally licensed gun sellers. But it defines that term narrowly and would allow patients who had been involuntarily committed and treated for mental illness to pass a federal background check and purchase guns.
Current law prohibits people who are ordered by a court into involuntary treatment from buying weapons — even though individuals can petition to have their rights restored in 22 states. Under the bill, individuals who are released could seek to have their name removed from the federal database immediately and “would not have to go through a formal adjudication process to prove worthiness to buy a gun.” From the text:
During an interview with KNWA in Fort Smith, Arkansas on Friday, Pryor touted his support for the measure and stressed that it would allow individuals to remove their names from the database. “I am a co-sponsor of a bill that I think is actually endorsed by the NRA,” Pryor said, “making sure that the right mental health data is in the background check database and also making sure you can get your name out when it’s time to get your name out.”