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April 23, 2014

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Nevada Legislature 2013:

State senator’s bill calls for background checks for private gun sales, mental health reporting

A bill to tighten the law on gun sales and for improved mental health reporting has been introduced by Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas.

“We’ve got to do something” to curb the violence, he said.

Jones said he would visit the Rawson-Neal mental health hospital Friday; next Tuesday, his Senate Health and Human Services Committee will tour Lake’s Crossing, the center for mentally ill adults in Washoe County.

On Thursday, the committee will conduct a hearing about the mental health services provided by the state.

Jones’ bill would require a private person who wants to sell a gun to another individual to ask the state Central Repository for a background check to clear the purchaser. If the seller does not follow the law, he or she could be charged with a gross misdemeanor and would be prohibited from possessing a gun for two years.

“Background checks may be a little difficult for some,” said Jones, who is not a gun owner. “But it is supported by a high 80 percent of Americans and probably by Nevadans, as far as I could tell.”

Under the bill, SB221, courts would have five days after finding a person had mental problems to notify the repository for criminal history records. And a psychiatrist or licensed psychologist who learns while treating a mentally ill patient that he or she is a threat to another individual would be able to notify law enforcement.

This bill would waive the privacy mandate now in law between a physician and the patient.

Jones feels the mental health changes have enough support for passage.

“There were other states, particularly after Sandy Hook, that jumped on the issue and passed legislation and they got criticized by mental health professionals because it really didn’t address the issue,” he said.

Following Jones' announcement, Sen. Joseph Hardy, R-Boulder City, also introduced a bill to allow an employee of the university system or public and private schools to carry a gun on campus. Under SB223, the individual carrying a gun on campus would be required to have a concealed weapons permit and must notify the head of the university or school that he or she is going to be armed.

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  1. March 4th Justin Jones penned a piece about his legislation. However, this legislation does not deal effectively with these issues and will not work. Mr. Jones says someone who was committed was not put into the database. He contradicts himself later, "But because he was never involuntarily committed to a hospital for psychiatric treatment by a court, his name was never entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System." Most stays in mental hospitals are not commitments. If not commitment what level of treatment makes a person unfit to purchase a gun? If the requirement is some sort of determination after contact with mental health system, then why not make that contact for treatment? Mr. Jones proposal does not say anything about treatment. Why conflate the issue of mental health with gun violence at all?

    What happens if a person legally buys a gun and later becomes mentally ill? The answer is probably gun registration. This is toxic to the vocal minority of gun owners. It is easier to blame problems on the mentally ill whether they deserve it or not.

    While I applaud Mr. Jones for bringing attention to the issue of mental illness, I must also throw brickbats with the roses. For he predicts his bill will not have much impact, "In fact, studies show that the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of a crime than to commit one."

    In closing, the proposal does not deal with the most pressing issue in mental illness ( a lack of treatment options) nor the major cause of gun violence (guns). Legislating on one does not solve the problems caused by the others.

    Now in this article he again admits his bill is not aimed at the real causes and solutions to gun violence.

    "There were other states, particularly after Sandy Hook, that jumped on the issue and passed legislation and they got criticized by mental health professionals because it really didn't address the issue," he said.