Gun purchases must be limited to mentally stable

Alex Lindley

Alex Lindley Copy Editor

Well, Alabama, it seems there’s a state rankings list that we didn’t get second to last on, though Mississippi did manage to rank towards the bottom.

I’m proud of Alabama. It made the list, in a recent Associated Press review, of the few states that submitted sufficient records of mentally ill residents to a national database aimed at preventing mentally ill people from buying guns.

Though Alabama kept decent records, more than half of the states submitted fewer than 1,000 names to the national database prior to the review. Nine states submitted no names whatsoever, while 17 others sent in fewer than 25. Eleven other states submitted fewer than 1,000. At least one million names are missing from the list nationwide, officials say.

The nine states that did not submit any records to the national database include: Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota.

The law requiring states to submit the names of mentally ill residents was created in reaction to the 2007 Virginia Tech school shooting, which left 32 dead, including the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho. He had undergone outpatient treatment due to a 2005 court ruling that said he was a danger to himself.

Cho’s name should have been submitted to the national list, but Virginia officials evaded repercussions through a state law loophole that only required submission of the names of those who have been committed to mental hospitals.

I’m glad that Alabama has done the right thing, but for the 37 states that have submitted subpar records, something has to change.

Don’t get me wrong-I don’t believe for a second that every mentally ill person is a danger to society. But, with recent shootings by mentally unstable people, such as Cho and Jared Loughner, a system needs to be effectively implemented that prevents them from purchasing guns, at least until they have received sufficient treatment.

I propose a rigorous, face-to-face screening process and interview for every potential gun owner, in addition to the national database. The meeting could be conducted through an area official, or through licensed gun store owners after required training on how to spot signs of mental instability.

There’s money for this, too. Because of the rampant lack of participation amongst the states, Congress has given out very little of the $1.3 billion it promised to the states to help with the costs of implementing the national database law.

Keeping mentally unstable people from buying guns would be a great measure to take to reduce the United States’ embarrassing firearm murder rate, considering we had the eighth highest rate per capita in the world in 2002, according to a United Nations survey on crime trends.

As for the nine states that submitted no records to the national database, blame and anger of the heaviest nature will be aimed at them should a shooting happen that could have been prevented.