Across the country, conservative states have gone to extreme lengths to prove their faith in the Second Amendment dogma. States like Tennessee, Louisiana, Virginia and Texas have enacted laws that allow guns on campus, in churches, in bars, in government buildings, in public parks, and in school classrooms. Florida is even pursuing a pro-gun bill at the expense of the constitution.
But such dismissal of sensible gun regulation has dangerous consequences. Just last month, Arizona’s lax gun laws permitted a mentally unstable Jared Lee Loughner to obtain weapons and go on a killing spree in Tucson. One state, however, may be emerging from this anti-sanity haze. Yesterday, a Kentucky House committee approved a bill that “would add some mentally ill Kentuckians to a national list of people who can’t buy guns” to help address the lagging “reporting process” that could help prevent shootings similar to Tucson:
On the gun bill, the committee without debate approved House Bill 308, which would require Kentucky to notify the FBI when a court commits people to a mental institution or otherwise finds them mentally incompetent. The FBI would add the names of those people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, used by federally licensed gun dealers to screen their customers.
Federal law prohibits the sale of guns to anyone “adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution.” However, Kentucky is one of many states that does not notify the FBI when its courts make such decisions, said Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, the bill’s sponsor.
“The problem is that there’s really not a good reporting process for actions taken by the courts,” Damron told the committee.
The bill also includes an appeals process through the courts for people who later claim to have recovered their mental health so they can have their names removed from the national list. The bill does not cover people who voluntarily commit themselves to a mental institution or seek counseling, because their medical records usually are private.
As of August 2010, Kentucky submitted mental health records on only four people since the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act prohibiting gun purchases without background checks took effect in 1998. Twenty-seven other states also submitted the mental health records of fewer than 100 people.
While this bill will go a long way to take guns out of potentially dangerous hands, Kentucky still has gaping holes that could jeopardize public safety. Because open carry is “constitutionally protected” in Kentucky, guns can be carried openly in cars, in state parks, in restaurants that serve alcohol, and on college campuses. What’s more, a Kentuckian does not have to inform an officer if he or she is carrying a weapon.