State Senate bill to prohibit gun sales to mentally ill sparks debate
Senate Bill 244 would require people with court-determined mental illness to be added to the federal list of those prohibited from purchasing guns — a list that licensed dealers use for background checks.
“There are very dangerous people who have no diagnosed mental illness or substance abuse disorders,” said Ken Norton, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness NH. “Like Carl Drega, some of these people are well known to our communities and to law enforcement.”
Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, said the bill is the start of a movement to disarm the United States, as was done in Australia and England. “This bill will lead to that, I have no doubt,” he said.
• Found not guilty by reason of insanity;
• Having a court-appointed guardian;
• Involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.
The bill also includes a provision that allows a person to have his or her name removed from the background check list if he or she is no longer mentally ill.
James Bryant of Enfield said the bill would finally allow him to regain his guns, which he lost when he had a mental breakdown.
“(The path) comes to a dead end in the middle of the night,” Bryant told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I’m just looking for a path to redemption.”
NH Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Devon Chaffee said the decision to deny someone their constitutional right ought to be based on statistical data, not on perpetuating a stereotype that one group of people is more likely to commit violence.
Michael Skibbie of the Disability Rights Center said lawmakers ought to rethink the list of qualifiers.
The committee will accept written testimony on the bill until Friday.
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