How to keep firearms from mentally ill in Nevada stirs heated debate

Opponents of legislation designed to bar the mentally ill from buying guns argued Tuesday that filing that ban with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System based on a petition from a psychiatrist violates due process and an individual’s Second Amendment rights.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, who wrote Senate Bill 277, told members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee he has made efforts to resolve those complaints but still has not managed to persuade gun groups such as the National Rifle Association to support it.

He said those amendments include giving the person facing a commitment petition immediate access to courts to seek restoration of gun rights.

Dan Reid of the NRA said the proposed law “could cause someone to lose their constitutional right on the basis of a petition.”

He was joined by spokesmen from several other gun-rights groups.

Chris Frey of the Washoe Public Defender’s office argued that, instead of taking those rights after appointment of counsel, review and a decision by the courts, SB277 “would make the accusation of a mental illness the disqualifying event.”

That isn’t fair because there’s no way to challenge the filing of a petition, he said.

“That’s not the appropriate point in time in the process,” Frey said.

Kieckhefer said Frey can make that argument, but that the existing law “has resulted in zero commitments to the state hospital this year.”

He conceded he has struggled with the issue of due process in taking someone’s Second Amendment rights, but that “there is a significant gap between the intent of the law, what people expect and the way our system works.”

Kieckhefer said simply that the current law doesn’t work.

Law enforcement officials from both Northern and Southern Nevada supported the measure.

The measure will be reviewed in a work session Thursday, and Kieckhefer said he will continue trying to find common ground with opponents until then.


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