Efforts to Prevent Gun Sales to Mentally Ill May Deter Patients From Seeking Help
Vol. 298 No. 5, August 1, 2007
Medical News & Perspectives
Thomas B. Cole, MD, MPH
New legislation designed to prevent homicides such as the mass killings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg last April may have the unintended effect of discouraging individuals from seeking mental health services, experts say.
The bill (HR 2640), which passed the US House of Representatives in June and has been under review in the Senate, would provide incentives for states to submit complete, automated records of involuntary commitments to mental institutions and other data relevant to gun purchases to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), for the purpose of disqualifying certain individuals with severe mental illness from purchasing firearms.
In addition, the legislation would mandate treatment for persons with reportable mental illness, but it would also require removal of an individual's record in the NICS after a determination that the individual no longer posed a danger to self or others.