Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Common sense, not gun control

There’s a law against selling guns to those who are mentally ill, but in North Carolina, there may as well not be. State courts are not required to notify the national registry of involuntary commitment orders.

That makes N.C. one of a handful of states where required background checks by gun dealers would turn up no record of a dangerous illness.

How important is this detail? Seung-Hui Cho, the student at Virginia Tech who killed 32 students and faculty before killing himself in April 2007, had been involuntarily committed by court order. But he was not listed on the NICBCS. Virginia requires that step now, but did not at that time. A gun dealer who sold him handguns days before the killing had no way of knowing.

Most people with mental illnesses don’t commit a public massacre. The greater risk is they will turn a gun on themselves. That’s why N.C.’s loophole ought to be closed, and a state Senate judiciary committee has approved legislation that would do so. It would require clerks of court to register the names of those involuntarily committed with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Some gun advocates call this step gun control. We call it common sense.

What do you think?


Abel Lineberger said...

I would agree so long as there is an independently judged process by which someone involuntarily or voluntarily committed can be removed from the list should the situation requiring the initial commitment change either via treatment, time, incorrect diagnosis, etc. But there must be a documented, adjudicated process off the list, before you constrain the rights of those on the list.