Gun Seizures: Will Taking Guns from the Mentally Ill Prevent More Violent Crime?

In California, people in illegal possession of firearms for criminal activity or mental illness will have them seized.

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With nearly every tragic mass shooting, the same question emerges — should people with a history of mental illness be allowed to keep their guns?

As investigators release more details suggesting that Aaron Alexis, the gunman responsible for killing 12 in a shooting spree at the Washington Navy Yard earlier this month suffered from mental health issues, law enforcement officials are trying once again to address the difficult issue of gun seizures. California is the only state in which police can confiscate legally obtained guns from individuals who lose that eligibility because they have been convicted of a felony, are under a domestic violence restraining order or have been institutionalized for a mental health problem since their firearm purchase. But with every tragedy such as the school shooting in Newton, Con., the movie theater rampage in Aurora, Col. and the shooting that injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and left six dead in Tucson, Ari. — each of which involved a gunman with unstable mental health — more states may be asking whether seizures can improve public safety.

(MORE: Aaron Alexis and the Dark Side of Meditation)

The California Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS) was created in 2001 to cross reference court records, mental institution holds and criminal records with lists of gun buyers generated since 1996 by the background checks performed on every resident who purchases a new gun. The process identifies gun owners who may have purchased their gun legally but now can no longer own a firearm. Since 2007, these residents could get a knock on their door from the California Department of Justice task force agents, equipped like a mini SWAT team, ordering them to hand over their weapons.

(MORE: Navy Yard Shooter Had Been Treated for Mental Health Problems, But Bought Gun Legally)

While the NRA initially supported the seizure law as a way to protect the public, some critics of the program say citizens are not informed by police about the law, so they don’t know that a run-in could lead to a visit by officers and loss of their weapon. California’s officials are undeterred, however, and in March, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill authorizing an additional $24 million dollars to fund the databases and seizure teams. The new funds come from the surplus collected from gun buyers, who pay $22 for background checks.

That doesn’t seem fair to gun supporters, who support the program but not the way it’s funded. Executive Director of Gun Owners of California Sam Paredes told Bloomberg News, “The issue we have is funding this program only from resources from law-abiding gun purchasers. This program has a benefit to the entire public and therefore the entire public should be paying through general fund expenditures, and not just legal gun owners.”

Brown signed the bill into law after several tragedies involving individuals listed in the APPS. In 2008, Roy Perez  shot his mother 16 times in their Baldwin Park home, then went next door and killed a woman and her 4-year-old daughter. Perez was on the APPS list for his long history of mental health citations, and task force members were scheduled to confiscate his gun the week after the shooting.

(MORE: Am I Safe? Talking to Your Kids About the Sandy Hook School Shooting)

“It was a tragic situation. They knew who and where he was, but hadn’t gotten there in time,” says Leno. “If we had more resources and a shorter list, yes, that could have been prevented,” says state senator Mark Leno, who authored the bill. “We now know the names and addresses of about 20,000 people who fit the APP description, and that represents about 39,000 firearms including a couple thousand assault weapons,” he says. “The good news is we know who they are and where they are, unlike every other state. The challenge then of course is to confiscate these weapons.”

There are 21,224 people listed in APPS, and of those, approximately 30% are now illegally own firearms after a change in their mental health status. People with mental illnesses who can no longer own weapons include those who have spent 72 hours, voluntarily or involuntarily, in a mental health institution for any reason ranging from being involved in a dangerous incident, a psychiatric recommendation, or an attempted suicide.

(MOREOhio School Shooting: Why NIMBY No Longer Applies)

In 2012, with 33 agents on the seizure task force, California seized 2,033 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition, and 11,072 illegal high-capacity magazines. The majority were taken during two six-week sweeps around the state. With the additional funds, the task force now has 70 members.

But even with additional agents, it’s not clear that targeting the mentally ill with illegal guns will reduce crime and avoid tragedies like the Navy Yard shooting. Alexis, had he been subject to the law, may not have lost his firearm, since he was never put on a mental health hold or institutionalized for a mental health issue (although recent reports suggest he may have been treated for mental illness). And assuming that every individual with such a history can potentially become violent and a threat to society or himself may also have deeper, negative consequences for how psychiatric patients are treated. “We wouldn’t want to pejoratively label every American dealing with a mental illness as a potential mass murder,” says Leno. “A shockingly large percentage of Americans will deal with mental illness each year and it is unfortunately already stigmatized.”

Psychiatrists echo that concern, and are skeptical about whether California’s approach is the best way to protect the mentally ill as well as society. “Our society is struggling following several serious mass shootings with how to protect its citizens. At the same time, with the right to bear arms, we have struggled with people’s civil liberties,” says Dr. Victor Fornari, the director of the division of child/adolescent psychiatry at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, New York. “[With] the goal of trying to protect citizens and greater good, California has thrown out a wide net. I don’t know if there is enough evidence that these people are posing a greater risk to the community and to other groups. The vast majority of people hospitalized for 72 hours are likely not dangerous, but our capacity to predict who might be dangerous is limited. ”

(MOREGiffords Shooting: To Kids, It’s As Simple As “Use Your Words”)

California lawmakers maintain that the law will ultimately protect the public from avoidable tragedies. Once their weapons are seized, gun owners with mental health prohibitions are placed on a five-year probation, and may legally own another firearm after that time. About 15 to 20 people are added to the APP list in California every day, and Leno says the state attorney general Kamala Harris has talked to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder about whether California’s program could be a template for a national model. It may not be the only answer to preventing tragedies like the Sandy Hook school shootings or the Navy Yard rampage, but it could be part of a stronger net that catches individuals who are in vulnerable mental states and makes their own environments, as well as the society around them, safer.

78 comments
www.bulksmsbase.com
www.bulksmsbase.com

"Gun Seizures: Will Taking Guns from the Mentally Ill Prevent More Violent Crime?. Good question and my answer is yes.

www.bulksmsbase.com
www.bulksmsbase.com

With nearly every tragic mass shooting, the same question emerges — should people with a history of mental illness be allowed to keep their guns? I think they should not be allowed to keep their guns.

Evo1
Evo1

"more states may be asking whether seizures can improve public safety."

The answer is "No." Why is it that those advocating for more gun laws never actually look at the circumstances of the events that they themselves claim prompt their calls for action? Name one single mass shooting in the last 20 years where the person acquired their guns BEFORE they were ever documented as having mental health issues. It hasn't happened. In every single one where mental health has been an issue, the person was known by someone to be suffering some type of mental disturbance before they went and bought a gun. So this new law wouldn't have stopped a single one of these incidents, and therefore, by definition, would not have improved public safety. 

The failure isn't in the gun laws, but in a mental health system that fails to identify these individuals so that the gun laws can work. Every single one of the killers at the Navy Yard, in Tucson and Aurora, and at Virginia Tech, were known to be mentally disturbed by someone in a position of authority, including law enforcement and mental health professionals, before they purchased the guns with which they committed their crimes. And, had any of these people taken the proper steps to document their mental health issues properly, rather than passing the buck, the EXISTING gun laws we ALREADY HAVE would have caught every one of these killers the first time they tried to buy a gun. Instead, because the mental health and criminal justice systems failed to properly document the known threat they posed, every one of them passed background checks (in Tucson and V. Tech they each passed 2, and the Aurora killer passed 4!). Without fixing the mental health system so that it properly documents mental illness, there is no way that any gun law prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing guns can ever work. 

As one writer noted, discussing gun control at this point is like seeing a mentally ill man on the street wearing a tinfoil hat and lamenting that it's too bad we can't ban tinfoil. We need to fix the systems that actually failed in all these cases, the mental health and criminal justice systems, not the one that worked (the gun laws), but was undermined by the failure of these other two.

ChristopherBosarge
ChristopherBosarge

Now I am sorry I really am about this monster doing these thing's but I want loose my gun right's thats ridiculous the bad guys mentally ill are mentally stable bad is bad they will illegally obatain them. are just make them you can make a 12 gauge legal pipe gun in most states as long as the barrel is over 18 inches that is the minimum I do believe I would never go that low pipe guns are decent to have especially if you hunt allagators they work good as backwards like bang stick if any of you know what that is?

ChristopherBosarge
ChristopherBosarge

I like to be as pro gun as i can some one once asked why do you have photos of a gun aimed at a camera i simply said to do after effects in photos. ( they thought i actually allowed some one to hold the camera and aimed a gun at them no i set it down check the weapon visually and physically including sticking my fingers in the breach) then set it some where and then even put it on safety set the timmer and take the pic id never ask some one to hold a camera and point a gun at them that is beyond insaine. yet i have seen normal people do it one time I was at a cops house he was cleaning his revolver he had two cylinders i said hey man be careful i seen brass in that cylinder he said aint loaded the snaped it shut it went off missing my head by 2 inches and went out threw his roof. what an idiot

ChristopherBosarge
ChristopherBosarge

Guys I am bipolar I have owned gun's since I was 12 shooting unsupervised I find this very upsetting the shooting's. but taking away my right's is not going to help you I was taught to never even aim a toy gun at some one my dad would of tore my buttocks up so bad it isnt funny if i ever even played airsoft. I am 26 no criminal record a mental health record that is thicker than 5 king james bibles. but no violent comments in any of them my phych even signed a note so that should anything come down on us that I am a non violent person who mostly voices his anger yet never has been in a fight besides kindergarden. now look I am not giving up my gun right's the mentally ill people that are doing this they know right from wrong look i don't care what anyone else says sure bipolar and schizo's do stupid stuff regularly but to do this is something that should be punishable by death to take another human life your not mentally ill your mentally a monster that should be exacuted death penalty for the guy. But i think he is dead i dont want to read the article I am trying to keep from getting angry I know its a dang tragedy a sad one to. I would of ran in and shot the shooter if i could but I wasn't there and if i did they wouldn't put a good story like that on the news. there on a rating system they want you to be angry and tune in and stay on there channel who better to attack than guys like me that have a horrible stigma over there head. And since this this feels like a ton of bricks has been dropped on my head not only do I have to feel horrible about the shooting I have to face it because people will now be like that guys nuts dont talk to him. Like one of the guys below said you can tell the difference in a lunatic verses a mentally ill person if they are pointing a gun loaded are not at some one they are not fit for that weapon and in my opinion should be brought to the crazy house if they are doing that nonsense.

Spencer60
Spencer60

Look at your headline, then remember the common gun control lobby mantra: 'nobody wants to take your guns'. 

Just more proof of the lies they tell. 



ChristopherBosarge
ChristopherBosarge

@Spencer60 they are going to get our gun's first then youre guns that is how this is going to go down its a strrategy i can tell

Bingo
Bingo

Psychologists and psychiatrists can assess a person's mental status and in conjunction with neurologists, police, and family and friends a determination can be made. It isn't very difficult.

We all really know when we are in the presence of a person skilled in handling weapons, a person who demonstrates safety and care with regard to weapons, and who isn't being provocative or dangerous.

It is the same with nut bags. They point guns at people instead of up in the air, they keep their finger on the trigger instead of off of it. They keep loaded weapons where children could get them.

A "well regulated militia" is one where its members exhibit good bearing, practice safety, and are dedicated to teamwork. A militia can only be as efficient and well run as its members can be trusted.

Anyone unable to contribute to the militia being "well regulated", efficient, organized, et cetera isn't a person covered by the second amendment.

NOTE at the time of the writing of the second amendment "well regulated" meant well organized or efficient. It never had anything to do with government regulations.

ChristopherBosarge
ChristopherBosarge

@Bingo very true buddy I have bipolar dissorder and will not even point a toy gun at some one. I own real guns as well my father taught me gun safety very well. I was shooting unsupervised by the age of 11 1/2 to 12 real guns. I lived out in the country though. I agree if you will aim a gun unloaded at some one your still taking the chances of it being just as much as loaded and one in the breach. that is a very good point I Mentioned you earlier in a post I was making good point sir!!!!!!!!

JohnDeChiara
JohnDeChiara

And who is to say that someone is mentally ill? 

OscarWeiner
OscarWeiner

Quick question..... is this task force of 70 going to make the rounds in the LA hood...???  I would imagine a few of those drug dealing ghetto rats are quite frankly.....mentally ill.  Or is just suburbia the target market...???

GinaPocan
GinaPocan

Ok guys, we're just going back and forth. Most of you have great things to say. Just a handful here are talking out of their butts. Anyway, what is the answer guys? What do we do? or can we really do anything about it at all? is it just one of those things we just can't put the breaks on without infringing on our rights? A necessary evil if you will...

FrankBlankenship
FrankBlankenship

When a government would disarm it's citizens, that government would become tyrannic. We have second amendment rights to safeguard the liberty of citizens. Freedom is the issue here. Freedom is at risk. Replacing violence by individuals with violence by government thugs is no improvement. A representative government that represents the popular vote less and less and less is not truly democratic. The closer we come oligarchy, the closer we come to losing our freedoms. Blaming violence on people with problems, and people with middle eastern religious affiliations, is only the start of the restrictions to come, when those restrictions are aimed at protecting the government from it's citizens.  When the citizens serve the interests of a government that no longer serves the interests of its citizens, I'd say it's time for a revolt. Hopefully, that revolt can start in voting booths; otherwise, look out! The time will have come to take out the oligarchy. 

realprimalnews
realprimalnews

OMG, this epidemic of mentally ill people shooting up the malls and on the streets has got to stop.  It's out of control.


Politicians should have a mental evaluation before being allowed to run for office too.  No pathological liars, no narcissists, no history of mental illness.

notasheep
notasheep

what is failed to be seen is the law says that held for 72 hour observation you no longer can have a gun that means even if you are found not to have a mental illness you still lose your rights and they they do this to with out a warrant  or cause


XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@notasheep 

As I said below, I can get anyone's guns taken away forever by simply hopping on Skype and telling the cops a lie. They'll institutionalize you for sure, and that's all it takes...

You MIGHT be able to get out of it with tens of thousands in lawyers fees, but even then they probably won't reverse it 'just in case'.

http://llltexas.com <- my blog

notasheep
notasheep

@XiraArien1 @notasheep it just  seems to me the focus on this new law is about mental illness  which what was intended by the lawmakers to help hide the fact that they have made a new tool for disarming legal gun owners now all they have to do is say you may be unstable imprison you with out charging you of a crime or trial or legal counsel for 72 hours and now they can come take your guns by force and by force i mean by gun point and theirs are full auto which you cant have because that would take away their advantage over you next  will be books because you dont need to know how to  or make what they deem to be dangerous to the safety well being of  what they will call for the good of the people 

GinaPocan
GinaPocan

This is BS, because that will just clump all mentally ill in ONE pot like they always do. A mental evaluation before ownership MIGHT be a good idea. Which would require a release of information on mental status by institutions, and by a qualified Clinician not hired by the state.

toomad2309
toomad2309

Hindsight might be 20/20 but if in a fit of rage someone shoots out two tires and fires another shot into the air that might be a red flag that they are mentally unfit.

Smiling1809
Smiling1809

I'm sorry, but who gets to define mentally ill here? Mentally ill covers a HUGE range of people. Mentally ill people still have constitutional rights. Nowhere in that document does it say that the government can pick and choose who those rights are given to. If someone wants a gun, they will get it. At least if they can buy them legally, there is a record there. 

GinaPocan
GinaPocan

@Smiling1809 I can't agree with you more, but I can see a mental evaluation as part of the purchasing process. Maybe a Case History done as well. But, not done my state employees, but by a qualified Doctor, or Psychologist.

JakobStagg
JakobStagg

@Smiling1809 You point out one of the most overlooked facts in the matter. Criminals don't necessarily go through background checks or purchase firearms legally.  In fact they rarely do. People who do and commit crimes demonstrate repeatedly how useless background checks really are. Most background check rejections are false positives and mostly reversed. But, as "Shotgun" Joe says, "We don't have time to fix it." Stupidity as usual.

GinaPocan
GinaPocan

@JakobStagg @Smiling1809 Jakob, I am well aware of this, I am appealing to the idea of clumping the mentally ill in one pot. I live in the innercity of Chicago and am well aware how criminals get guns. But also, the ones who do, have some sort of psych issues going on. All gangbangers are mentally ill. They have to be, to even be a gangbanger.But all gangbangers are not all alike, I know this also. Some can be saved where others are hopeless. The savable ones usually haven't killed anyone. The ones who do have illegal guns to begin with. We are between a hard rock and a stone wall. So, what is the solution? Is there one? Personally, I doubt it. But, tampering with our Amendment rights is certainly NOT the answer.

JakobStagg
JakobStagg

@GinaPocan @JakobStagg @Smiling1809 It is painful for me to read about Chicago's violence problems. It is why I refused to visit in October. Unfortunately, government only takes from those who resist the least. One major effect is to make people more fearful. I don't think the government wants us to feel secure. That would allow us to enjoy our lives. Current approaches always favor criminals and their enterprises.

Let's just consider TSA groping. The billions of dollars of restricting travel and humiliating travelers has accomplished nothing but wasting money. The government admits scanners are a waste. Surprise? Safer? 

Consider DHS. It is Obama's personal private army. They have been armed and have begun ramping up purchasing arms and ammunition. They have purchased billions of rounds of hollow point ammo, which is illegal under the Geneva Convention for use against other nations. The can only be used to murder Americans on American soil. They have enough ammo to shoot every American many times. Do you feel safer? 

The only military weapons in the street are those placed by the government. Any wonders why the government constantly persecutes the law abiding?

Defenseless people are slaves. Our problem is greater than just criminals, violent mentally ill, and gangs. Our government must be mentally ill, given their approach to the whole thing.

You are absolutely correct about we, the people, being in a tough spot.

ChristopherBosarge
ChristopherBosarge

@Smiling1809 very well said mam I am bipolar and i have even had schizophrenia from stress during my child hood. the guy who did these shootings is just as dang guilty as a normal person i am sorry you dont loose humanity even when you loose your mind hurting some one simply just shows you would of been a scum ball anyways. I own guns and practice good gun safety < not a bad guy at all and I agree with what you are saying. you cant also just take an entire group of peoples right's because of the guilt of crimes others have commited that is descrim in its finest and racist.