Washington Navy Yard Shooting Rekindles Discussion Over Mental Health Issues In Gun-Control Debate

National lawmakers have been reminded of the need to give mental health providers better resources to treat dangerous people and prevent them from buying weapons. The shooting at the Washington Navy Yard by a man who authorities say showed telltale signs of psychosis is spurring a push to move ahead with bipartisan mental health policy changes. The new debate over gun control is beginning to turn not on weapons or ammunition, but on the question of whether to spend more money on treating and preventing mental illness.

Modern day gun laws assume that probable wrongdoing will occur simply because a certain type of conduct is admitted to have occurred in the past. However, simply because an individual checks themselves into rehab or anger management does not necessarily mean that the individual is or should now be considered dangerous or of a level that would not allow ownership of a gun. For example, on July 1st in Florida, the legislature passed House Bill 1355 that blocks gun sales to some people who voluntarily admit themselves for mental-health treatment. The government uses an assumption as the sole grounds for the justifying the law. However, the law fails to consider that the alternative; that maybe the person who checked themselves into treatment got treated, and that they will not be a danger to society. indexgunc.jpg

Many have fought for gun regulation for years because of terrible gun involved crimes such as Sandy Hook and movie theaters. HB 1355 is such a response to these crimes. For nearly 40 years, federal law has barred certain individuals with a history of mental health treatment from purchasing, receiving, or possessing firearms. State laws are a patchwork of regulations, some being identical to the federal statute, while others are much more inclusive than the federal statute,. In some states, such laws are nonexistent. For the past 20 years, it has been possible to petition for relief from the federal prohibition; however, this is no longer the case in Florida.

One can talk to any number of clinicians and physicians who will probably recall a past patient of theirs who should not possess a firearm and have never been treated involuntarily. However, that same number will also state that there are those that were committed voluntarily who have completely recovered from whatever mental condition was ailing them and are fine to possess a firearm.

While it is presumably less difficult for the purpose of background checks to identify patients who have been committed, it would also be possible for states to mandate reporting of psychiatric patients who should be barred from possessing firearms, as is done for driving privileges in cases of epilepsy, narcolepsy, dementia, and so on.

Unfortunately, there are many federal and state laws being created every day that are leading the push towards making owning and operating a gun legally extremely difficult if not impossible. Even more unfortunate is that these laws are not cleaning the streets of criminals, but law abiding citizens who many times are just coming back from the shooting range with spent brass they could have used in a reloading kit.

For example, Washington D.C. police are arresting tourists and other non-residents for traveling with spent bullet or shotgun casings, a crime that carries a $1,000 fine, a year in jail and a criminal record. Under this federal district law, live or empty brass and plastic casings must be carried in a special container and unavailable to drivers. Having one, for example, in a cup holder or ash tray is illegal. Obviously, one can see that this law is not meant to take care of a dangerous offender, but create a thousand dollar deposit in the State’s pocketbook every time someone is found with empty shell casings.

Many times throughout Jacksonville, the accused is just someone who never knew they left their gun in the car, or never thought someone else might have put a gun in the car; because of their lack of knowledge, they suffer at the hands of a powerful State operated legal system. Fortunately, if one obtains an experienced Jacksonville gun crimes defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights are protected, one can be sure that one will not be a victim in a fight one may not win on one’s own.


The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Source: Mental Health Again an Issue in Gun Debate, The New York Times