New Bill Would Require Mental Health Checks Before Buying a Gun

By: Stacy McCloud
By: Stacy McCloud

Knoxville (WVLT) - An East Tennessee lawmaker is pushing for a bill that could prevent people with a history of mental illness from buying a gun.

The bill would require states to turn over confidential records of mental illnesses to an f-b-i database.

As volunteer TV’s Stacy McCloud finds out....that's sparking a lot of debate.

"It’s just common sense that these people don't need to be buying guns and having permits,” Representative Frank Niceley’s argument, he says, is plain and simple. Anyone with a mental illness trying to buy a gun should be subject to an alert on their background check.

Then it should be up to the courts to decide if their illness is severe enough to keep them from continuing with the gun purchase.

"I’m talking about the people who the courts have decided need to be institutionalized, gone through due process, I think that is reasonable,” Rep. Niceley says.

Hardly reasonable to Louis Symington, who believes the entire process spells discrimination. "To say you have this disability then you have to register, we are only one step away from saying if you have blonde hair you have to register.”

Symington says most people with a mental illness aren't like the Virginia Tech gunman. The event which has most recently sparked this debate. Most, with support and medication, live competent lives.

"Why is it that a person with mental illness is more unstable than a person who has a traumatic brain injury or PTSD," questions Dr. Symington. "A person who is out on a fix looking for drugs can be equally unstable.”

While Symington says a gun bill targeting the mentally ill is a mis-marketed approach to a terrible problem, "to say we now can take a bun bill state or federal and this is going to solve the problem, it's not"

Supporters, like Niceley, say it is the obvious start to a long-term solution. "We have to have some common sense restrictions.”

Niceley's opinions have become known because he has prepared an amendment to mandate reporting mental health records, that he plans to attach to a separate bill set to hit the senate floor for a vote on Thursday.

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