Monday, April 23, 2007

Lawmakers Tussle With Gun Laws

Congress is tip-toeing through this issue, searching for answers. Few seem to want to go forward with banning weapons that are legally obtained. BEN FELLER writes in an AP article that lawmakers want to bridge the gap between mentally ill patients and their ability to purchase firearms:

Lawmakers Want to Close Gaps in Gun Laws

WASHINGTON (AP) - Grappling with the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history, lawmakers said Sunday they want to eliminate a gap between state and federal laws that can allow someone with a history of mental illness to buy guns.

Members of Congress have shown little political appetite, however, for attempting to expand federal gun control in response to the massacre at Virginia Tech.

"The scum of the earth"(my edit), who gunned down 32 people on campus and killed himself Monday, was evaluated at a psychiatric hospital in late 2005 and deemed by a judge to present "an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness." That should have disqualified him from purchasing a gun under federal law, experts say.

But Virginia court officials insist that because the judge ordered only outpatient treatment - and did not commit "the scum" (my edit) to a psychiatric hospital - they were not required to submit the information to be entered in the federal databases for background checks...........

Databases are fine and dandy, but they are only as good as the people who process the data. Also, putting this responsibility into the hands of medical professionals will not be welcomed by an already understaffed and unqualified industry that may be asked to commit otherwise treatable patients through outcare facilities. If the Virginia courts change the law to include non-committed patients to the listing into federal databases, this puts the onus on the doctors, which will open up civil litigation for patients seeking mental help, but are not a threat to themselves or society. With the liability insurance woes already burdening the medical industry, the APA, (American Psychiatric Association), will hardly welcome these responsibilities.

However, while we struggle with the dilemma of how to keep firearms out of the hands of those who would take lives, I still submit that if a few extremely qualified persons were allowed carry, or had access to a gun on campus, they may have limited the amount of deaths by a madman who slipped through the cracks. Leaving so many students defenseless with no recourse makes little sense.

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