I-Team: Lawmakers Seek to Release Mental Health Info

Ed. Note: The national debate about gun violence and gun control has generated strong emotions on all sides following the recent tragedies in Connecticut and Colorado. Should Americans' Second Amendment rights be restricted in the interests of public safety, or is gun violence something that no law could curb? This is Part 10 of Guns of Nevada.

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Nevada lawmakers took aim at gun violence and its link to mental health during a hearing Thursday afternoon in Carson City, Nev., focused on the issue and using public health data to separate fact from fiction.

The presentation focused on Nevada specific information to outline the scope of the problem.

Among the findings: Nevada's rate of gun-related deaths is 40 percent higher than the national average, a statistic driven in large part by the state's high number of suicides.

To further explore the link between mental illness and gun violence, state officials identified specific mentally ill patients with gun-related charges.

In 2011, the state identified 12 such people and traced their history with Nevada's mental health system.

Only half of them were determined mentally ill by a court, allowing those found sane to legally purchase a gun.

Julie Butler, of the state's Department of Public Safety, oversees Nevada's background check system, also known as NICS.

"The courts can share that info for the purposes of sharing it with NICS," she said. "We cannot share that with law enforcement, with health, I can't share it with (Douglas County) Undersheriff (Paul) Howell when they apply for a CCW (concealed carry permit), period."

In addition to the law being limited, Butler said the NICS system is entirely dependent on reporting from the courts -- information she said is not getting to the state quickly.

Lawmakers are expected to consider a bill that would expand the mental health information reported to the NICS system.

For example, a speaker testified that some 300 to 400 people a week in Clark County are held for a 72-hour psychiatric evaluation to determine whether they are a danger to themselves or others.

None of those holds are included in the NICS system.


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