This week, our neighbors in Connecticut began hearings about mental health care in the state after the Newtown shooting. Lawmakers and a couple of task forces convened by Gov. Dannel Malloy are reviewing the state's mental health services and looking at the kinds of public policy and legal fixes that might make it better. Should we mandate outpatient treatments for the mentally ill? Can we truly assess someone's risk before it's too late? Should gun buyers face a mandatory mental health evaluation?
For once, Rhode Island politicians have a chance at being part of the solution. Even a small change on gun violence would resonate with voters.
As recently as the 2012 election campaigns, the issue of gun control had fallen off the political shelf. A Republican Party dominated by the states of the sunbelt and the Old Confederacy feverishly defended the rights of the gun lobby. Rueful Democrats, especially those in Red states, bowed cravenly to the gun constituency that was universally cited as the club that doomed Al Gore’s 2000 presidential aspirations.
Rhode Island Public Radio health care reporter joined afternoon host Dave Fallon in the studio to talk about what public health experts and legal scholars have to say about mental health records and the gun background check database. A transcript follows. You can listen to our feature story on Rhode Island's lack of participation in the National Instant Criminal Background Check, or NICS, database here.
(PROVIDENCE, RI) President Obama has just unveiled a set of 23 actions he’ll take to curb gun violence. Among them: encouraging states to share information with a national background check database. While some states are already contributing a significant amount of information, Rhode Island hasn’t submitted a single record.
Buying a gun from a dealer – say, a sporting goods store – triggers a federal background check. If you’re a convicted felon, you would fail the background check. So, too, if you’ve been involuntarily committed to an institution or otherwise ruled mentally ill. But the federal database against which background checks are run is only as good as the data. And Rhode Island is one of only four states that haven’t submitted any mental health records at all, according to a recent report out from a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
PROVIDENCE, RI - State representative Patricia Morgan is calling on Attorney General Peter Kilmartin to step up efforts to restrict gun ownership by people with mental illness.
A recent report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that Rhode Island had not submitted any mental health records to a federal registry for gun background checks. That’s despite federal regulations requiring states to submit such records on anyone who should be prohibited from owning a gun. State representative Patricia Morgan says officials don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to comply.
We’re all still reeling from the Newtown, CT tragedy. Reeling…and trying to make sense of what happened and why. And that’s where health care professionals and scientists are often able to help. We’ve got some of the best right here in Rhode Island, who would probably love to be able to answer questions like: Could we get better at predicting who is likely to commit a crime with a gun? Does having access to a gun in the house make you more likely to commit a crime with a gun?
But here’s the thing. We don’t really know. And it’s not exactly their fault.
Sure, it’s been a stressful few weeks – months, even. Debates, political ads, campaigning, flyers, you name it, we’re all tired of it, right? It might even be taking a toll on our mental health. And according to one study by some Israeli researchers, there’s a bit more stress in store just before you cast your vote: