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Feds lack Utah mental health data for gun checks
Gun sales » A lawmaker looks at sharing the data with other states to help keep firearms from unstable people.

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Utah’s policies on screening for mental illness have been a topic of discussion for years. After people with histories of mental illness committed fatal shootings at the LDS Family History Library and Triad Center in downtown Salt Lake City in 1999, the Department of Public Safety began its push to screen gun buyers for a history of mental illness.

Sharing information on mental illness has not been challenged by gun-rights groups.

At a glance

Guns and mental illness

Gun dealers are required by federal law to submit buyers’ information for a background check, which scans information on three databases — the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the Interstate Identification Index, and the National Crime Information Center.

According to a report by the Government Accountability Office in July, the total number of mental health records in the NICS database increased from 126,000 to 1.2 million between 2004 and 2011, largely due to a dozen states stepping up their efforts to provide information.

Between 1999 and 2009, 28,637 gun purchases had been rejected because the buyer was flagged for mental health issues.

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Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, told NBC’s "Meet The Press" on Sunday that too many states weren’t submitting records on the mentally ill to the national database.

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said that, as long as there is a clear standard for who is mentally ill and may not purchase a gun, it makes sense to share the information.

"In this day and age, with computers the way they are, there should be no question that we should be consistent with technology," said Aposhian. "To the degree a person has been adjudicated mentally incompetent or is federally prohibited from purchasing a firearm, we don’t see any reason not to share that information with other states."

Restoring gun rights? » Thatcher said he is researching Utah’s practices and thinks the state should share the information, but he isn’t sure whether legislation will be necessary.

He said he also wants to make sure there is a way for people to have their names easily removed from the database if a doctor says the individual is no longer a threat.

That will require a policy discussion on how to deal with individuals who are on medication.

"The thing I’m worried about is: What is the process for getting your rights back? If you go through treatment and you’re OK, in my personal opinion, you should get your weapon back," Thatcher said.

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"If you have to be on meds to be stable, should you get a weapon? … My personal opinion is no."

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