Rep. Thompson Offers Bill to Keep Guns from Criminals, Dangerously Mentally Ill

Congressman who chairs House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force introduces bill to develop system to remove firearms from people who bought them legally, but lost right to own them.

Rep. Mike Thompson, chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, introduced legislation Wednesday to help states launch initiatives to remove guns from the hands of convicted criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.

Thompson introduce the legislation at a press conference at 12:40 p.m. PST in Washington, D.C.  He was joined at the press conference by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and law enforcement officials. 

The conference began just a couple of hours before a double police homicide in Santa Cruz .

Along with co-sponsor task force vice-chair Jackie Speier (CA-14), the two introduced H.R. 848, the Armed Prohibited Persons Act of 2013. It would establish a competitive grant program within the Department of Justice for states that voluntarily develop a system that removes firearms from people who bought them legally, but later lost their right to own those firearms by committing a crime or being deemed dangerously mentally ill.

“The NRA is the first to say that we need to get the guns out of the hands of criminals. This bill does just that. We anxiously await their support,” said Speier.

“No matter which side of this debate you are on, no one wants criminals or people with a history of dangerous mental illness to have guns,” said Thompson.

“This bill does nothing to limit a law abiding citizen’s Second Amendment Rights. It simply gives states an incentive to develop successful programs that will keep guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have them."

This legislation is modeled after a 2001 California state law that established the state’s Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS). California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris endorsed the legislation.

"California's armed and prohibited persons program is a proactive, smart, efficient tool that is taking firearms out of the hands of people who are prohibited from possessing them,” said Attorney General Harris.

The state's APPS helps make sure those convicted of certain crimes or deemed to be dangerously mentally ill relinquish or sell any firearms they own.

Since 2007, under California’s APPS, law enforcement has collected more than 10,000 guns from people who after legally purchasing them, became prohibited from owning them. More than 11,000 assault magazines have also been seized.

Last year alone, more than 1,800 firearms where taken out of the hands of convicted criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.

Specifically, the Armed Prohibited Persons Act of 2013 would make grants available to States who:

  • Develop programs with the goal of removing firearms from armed prohibited persons;
  • Provide assurances that an armed prohibited person will have a reasonable opportunity to lawfully dispose of their firearms before the State takes action to retrieve them;
  • Will contribute pertinent information to the National Criminal Instant Background Checks System (NICS); and
  • Can sustain the operation of the proposed program.

H.R. 848 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

This material adapted from a press office statement. Thompson represents California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties.

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Dee Baucher February 28, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Exactly who is deemed "dangerously mentally ill"?!!! How would that label be determined? Is that someone who has already hurt or killed someone? Is that someone who is known to have delusions of carrying out a violent act? Is that someone who is merely psychotic? Is that someone who has a particular psychiatric label? Because the reality is that psychiatry is woefully unable to provide accurate or consistent diagnostic labels for mentally ill people. People like Adam Lanza (who carried out the school shootings in Newtown that precipitated the current public alarm and congressional attention) would certainly not have been labeled as a potential "dangerously mentally ill" person. Socially awkward and isolated people who don't verbally communicate with others, would not typically come under scrutiny for this type of designation. Therein lies the absurdity of this possible new set of laws. I would suggest that the lawyers who have come up with this half-baked idea, should actually consult with medical experts related to the designation of "dangerously mentally ill" people.
Ralph Hutchinson February 28, 2013 at 07:47 PM
I'm with Dee. Define Dangerously Mental Ill. Its easier when you have court recorded criminal convictions or court ordered incapacities on mentally ill people. However, Medical Records are private from HIPPPA and other California Health Records and Privacy laws. How will a database be built to gather medical and mental health records? Do you tap doctors, hospitals, insurance companies? Do you label by diagnosis? Do you look to State Hospitals and long term committed facilities? I just don't see how we balance privacy of medical conditions and background checks. We don't gather information on Brain Cancer victims or Head Trauma victims and declare they are not "fit" to own a firearm. Some mental illnesses are the same. We don't declare serial alcoholics with multiple license revocations are "unfit for firearm ownership." What about drug addicts? The Sandy Hook killer was said to have Asbergers on the Autism Spectrum and had no record, a college graduate, and possessed a drivers license. Where do we draw the line? Do we ban all Autistic people from driving a dangerous machine like a car? Or do we just focus on firearms? Which Political Official is going to touch the third rail of Autism? Mike Thompson is a fine Congressional Representative but he should know this is a dangerous move to try to define Mental Illness given privacy and medical records and not single out other addictions and dangers.
Ralph Hutchinson February 28, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Politicians today are passing "feel good" legislation that any logical American Citizen can see will not and can not achieve the claims. They rarely actually sit down and try to figure out how their laws can be implemented and what the impact is.
Dee Baucher February 28, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Apparently individuals hospitalized with mental illnesses in California can be placed onto the "prohibited" lists. I think its pretty obvious that individuals like Adam Lanza and James Holmes (intellectually smart enough to recognize the inherent threats this type of restriction would impose on them) would avoid a psych. hospitalization at all costs. Creating further barriers for those with severe mental illnesses to obtain necessary care is probably not an intelligent way to orchestrate a list of people deemed a risk for gun purchase.
Ralph Hutchinson February 28, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Are you saying an overwhelmed single mother that checks into a stress center or a troubled depressed teen who cuts herself and gets admitted to a hospital is deemed ineligible for life? So hospital admission records are already being disclosed and collected in California or is it proposed? What's severe and what's a stress related issue? Which warrants a ban on Second Amendment Rights and violation of medical privacy?
Dee Baucher March 02, 2013 at 08:07 PM
Apparently in California, psych hospitalizations are all counted, and the patients all are prohibited from gun purchases. Don't know if lists of these individuals are placed onto a data base... or who has access to this type of list. This has obviously been kept a secret from the public, but probably will be challenged in the courts eventually. Don't know if this is actually being enforced so that individuals are being blocked from purchasing guns; or if the guns are sold but then are confiscated?
Ralph Hutchinson March 02, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Interesting and sad these rights may be infringed illegally in my opinion. But how do they enforce it if it doesn't get into a background check database? All the hospital records in the state aren't linked? I trust Congressman Thompson and his State counterpart will look into this.
Ralph Hutchinson March 02, 2013 at 08:37 PM
Confiscated? Now that would be news.
Wire March 04, 2013 at 01:50 AM
California unable to disarm 19,700 felons and mentally ill people http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-74211487/ SACRAMENTO — California authorities are empowered to seize weapons owned by convicted felons and people with mental illness, but staff shortages and funding cuts have left a backlog of more than 19,700 people to disarm, a law enforcement official


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