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Gun Laws Mental Health Check Recommendations

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Gun Laws Mental Health Check Recommendations

A mental health check is a process that allows law enforcement officers to remove firearms from individuals who display signs of dangerous behavior but aren’t an immediate danger to themselves or others. This procedure, known as red flag law, has been proven to reduce suicide rates in states that implement it.

The mental health check is a relatively new tool used by law enforcement to detect and stop those who pose risks to themselves or others. It builds upon existing red flag laws which enable family members, police, and doctors to petition a court in order to request that guns be taken away from those they believe are at risk of hurting themselves or others.

However, this system has some drawbacks; it can be expensive for the state and may not be reliable at identifying people who may act violently. Furthermore, it could be unjust to gun owners with mental illnesses who rely on their weapons to protect themselves.

After the Newtown shooting, a group of researchers and advocates called for a more thorough mental health check on those who buy guns. This would require mental health professionals to report their patients’ names to a national background check system; it’s believed this system can better identify those who may harm themselves or others with firearms.

These efforts are a positive step, but the policy needs to be more specific and grounded in scientific data. Studies have revealed that around half of all gun deaths are suicides, with those who commit suicide being more than twice as likely to have a mental health condition.

Recommendation 1: The federal government should clarify and enhance existing mental health firearm disqualification criteria relating to involuntary commitment, while state laws should be strengthened to temporarily prohibit individuals from purchasing or possessing firearms after a brief involuntary hospitalization. Moreover, the process for restoring firearm rights should be modified in order to better safeguard the public while being fair to those wishing to regain their privileges.

Swanson believes the federal government should further leverage red flag laws to help prevent suicide. These policies, which are currently in 19 states, allow family members, police and doctors to request a court to take away firearms from someone they believe is at risk of harming themselves or others. Her research has demonstrated that for every 10 to 20 guns taken away from those suspected of having mental health problems, one suicide would be prevented.

A mental health assessment might involve answering common questions about one’s behavior, such as “if you ever felt suicidal,” or requesting mental health professionals for a brief interview. According to Taylor, this process should be standardized and reviewed regularly in order to guarantee ongoing objective accountability.

The new federal legislation also includes a funding stream to enhance mental health programs across America. It’s expected to begin this year and run for four or five years, providing money for more mental health services and increasing access to treatment in an effort to prevent suicides. While it remains uncertain how quickly this money will be put to use, advocates say it is an essential step in averting mass shootings like Newtown.

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