Wheeler Cowperthwaitewheeler@nevadaappeal.com

Back to: News
March 6, 2013
Follow News

Sheriffs issue position on gun rights

Unlike a room full of cardinals, it only took the 17 Nevada sheriffs 45 minutes to decide on their collective statement and position on the issue of guns in America.The sheriffs, including Carson City’s Ken Furlong, agreed that guns may be part of the issue but that mental health, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which protects patient privacy, gang violence and the use of illegal controlled substances must also be part of the conversation.“Information is being distributed at a rapid pace, some factual, some controversial and some without merit,” they state in the letter to constituents.One of the main issues the sheriffs addressed recently is that numerous people are not entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Documented gang members, who might “plead down” to misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors, are not necessarily entered into the background-check system, Furlong said.“If a gang member is (involved) in a shooting and he pleads down to a gross misdemeanor, there’s no reason I could prevent him having access to weapons,” Furlong said. “Gang violence is one of those issues that doesn’t make the press anymore.”The sheriffs argue those who have been validated as gang members should be prohibited from buying or possessing guns.The other issue the sheriffs address is HIPAA, which restricts the medical information that can be shared across institutions.“HIPAA must be amended to allow or even mandate reporting of the mentally ill by certain health care providers,” the sheriffs wrote. “Courts must ensure the entry of persons who have been adjudicated mentally ill or convicted of disqualifying crimes.”Furlong addressed the issues of judges being the final arbiters for some to be entered into the background check system.“I’m not sure that judges adjudicating mental health cases are in the best position to do that,” he said. “It’s a process that needs to be looked at,” especially if some cases are adjudicated as gross misdemeanors, not triggering an automatic barring from buying or possessing guns.“I believe the process within our current laws need to be redefined,” and better processes need to be created, he said. “Access, affordability (to mental health care) and trust need to be increased” in the cases of both law enforcement and mental health professionals.The sheriffs think a variety of issues need to be dealt with, Furlong said.“Domestic violence, mental health, all of these things need to be addressed,” he said.“Neither one of us (law enforcement or mental health providers) should fear HIPAA, and defer action,” he said.Action needs to be taken at the national, state and local levels, the sheriffs wrote.“We will work within the law and not succumb to perceived threats, rumor, false or malicious information to weigh or decision making process. We, as Nevada Sheriffs, support the right to bear arms and we will do all within our power to uphold and defend its principles,” they wrote.“Some of the very high tensions have come down. We were getting buried by it,” Furlong said. “Some of the fears have come back down to a manageable level.”

Stories you may be interested in

The Nevada Appeal Updated Mar 6, 2013 11:15AM Published Mar 6, 2013 04:10AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.