Democrats in the House introduced new legislation Friday that supporters say would enact new protections to make sure that firearms don’t fall into the hands of the severely mentally ill.
The proposal, sponsored by Democratic Representatives Mike Thompson of California and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, is called the “Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act of 2014.” If passed, the legislation would place tougher restrictions on gun ownership by prohibiting individuals convicted of stalking, domestic violence or similar crimes from purchasing firearms. It would also revoke gun ownership rights from anyone involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.
“While no one law or set of laws can end gun violence, by taking these steps — and requiring background checks on all commercial gun sales — we can make our communities safer and prevent more shootings while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Thompson said.
Furthermore, the bill would expand grant funding for State and local law enforcement education about Federal gun laws and bolster gun-violence prevention efforts. One such effort touted by supporters of the legislation would give lawmakers more options for attaining warrants to confiscate firearms from individuals they deem a danger to themselves or others.
The legislation was introduced exactly one week after a shooting tragedy in California involving a 22-year-old who had previously been investigated for possible mental disturbance by police. Officers reportedly interviewed the suspect and decided he was not a threat. The officers didn’t search his dwelling where supporters of the new House legislation say they would have found evidence of his murderous plans.
“This young man’s family reached out for support and did not find the support there,” Representative Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), said. “It is our duty, as members of Congress, to ensure that families, law enforcement [and] mental health professionals have the support they need to keep us safe.”
Critics of the legislation worry that broad language regarding citizens’ mental health history could lead to violations of both 2nd and 4th Amendment rights for people who have sought help with mental health issues unrelated to potential violence.
It’s unlikely that the bill will advance through the Republican-controlled House.