Bill makes it harder for mentally ill to get guns

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Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, told fellow members of Health and Human Services on Thursday Senate Bill 221 would make it harder for the mentally ill to get guns and make mental health professionals report when a client makes threats.

He said the bill would make courts report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System within five days after someone is committed instead of the up to 45 days it takes now.

Universal background checks drew some protests but Jones said he isn’t calling for limits on transfers within a family and the like.

“I’m certainly not here to suggest that if a couple wants to give their son a firearm for Christmas or if you want to give your wife a firearm for Valentine’s Day,” he told Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, who is also working on legislation to make sure those who shouldn’t have guns can’t get them.

It would also mandate background checks for all transfers of weapons from one person to another.

“You can’t keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill without background checks,” Jones said.

Jones also said Nevada is one of only four states that don’t have a “duty to warn” for mental health professionals.

Those elements of SB221 were supported both by the Nevada Psychiatric Association and law enforcement agencies from the Douglas County, Washoe County and the Las Vegas.

Douglas Sheriff Paul Howell said the bill would help citing one incident involving a mentally ill man who was making threats about his neighbors and children lives within walking distance of two schools. He said it “finally closes loopholes in permanent sale and transfer of ownership.”

The primary objections from the National Rifle Association and other organizations centered on the fact that the mental health provisions were in the same bill as the universal background checks.

Dan Reid of NRA said they support the tighter mental health restrictions. But he objected to “criminalizing private party transfers,” and universal background checks.

He was joined by Don Turner of the Nevada Firearms Coalition: “It’s a gun control bill put into a mental health bill.”

The committee received a major amendment to the original bill from Jones adding several categories of people to the list of those who should be barred from having a weapon beyond just those committed to a mental treatment facility. Those include those who enter a plea of guilty but mentally ill, those found guilty of a crime but mentally ill, those acquitted by reason of insanity or otherwise barred from gun ownership by federal law.

It also, even opponents agreed, improves due process for those who could lose their right to bear arms.

The committee took no action on the measure.


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