Sunday, May 06, 2007

What Is Wrong With Governor Crist?

Some people should NEVER get a gun, and some firearms are not suitable for individuals to own. I’m definitely NOT a gun control nut. In fact I am a lifetime member of the NRA, own three firearms, and, at certain times in my life, I have had a concealed, carry permit. Nevertheless, I can think of no reason why a person judged mentally defective or committed for a mental condition ever to own a gun.

I should also admit that, as a Republican, I am greatly distressed at the performance of the new Republican Governor of Florida, who pushed through legislation guaranteeing that insurance companies would not be able to cancel policies (they are still doing it left and right), insurance rates would not rise (they are doubling and tripling as we speak), and property taxes would be greatly reduced or even eliminated (not happening).

Now it appears that he is going to follow up his crazy executive order that will allow convicted felons to vote – with non-action on a pressing issue arising out of the Virginia Tech massacre – preventing mentally ill persons from possessing firearms. I should mention that Florida’s concealed carry law is one of the most restrictive in the country, requiring a course in gun laws and gun safety, specifying many places and conditions where a gun can not be carried, requiring that a carried gun be concealed and secure and making it clear that a gun can only be used to protect one’s life, not just one’s property. The citizens of Florida do not want guns out there indiscriminately.

Fatal flaw
Herald-Tribune, May 5, 2007

Virginia quickly closed a gun-law loophole; Florida should too
The governor of Virginia had 58 reasons to move swiftly this week to close a deadly loophole in his state's enforcement of federal gun laws.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist shouldn't wait for any more reasons to take the same steps in our state.

On Monday, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine signed an executive order requiring his state to add the names of anyone who has received court-ordered mental-health treatment to the database that gun dealers use to check the background of people seeking to buy firearms.

Kaine didn't hesitate. The change was long overdue.

In 2005, a court magistrate in Virginia ordered a troubled college student named Seung-Hui Cho to seek psychiatric evaluation after he threatened to commit suicide.

If the record of that court order had been forwarded to the database, as stipulated by federal law, dealers would have been barred from selling Cho the semiautomatic handguns he used to kill 32 people and injure 25 others at Virginia Tech last month before taking his own life.

"We realized that this is something we can fix right now and that we needn't wait to fix it," Kaine said of database change.

Unfortunately, Gov. Crist is taking a far slower approach to address an identical flaw in Florida's gun laws.

On Monday, Crist signed an order establishing a special task force to study campus safety and possible changes in the background checks for gun sales.

Regarding the inclusion of mental-health records in the gun database, Crist said, "This gets into the area of privacy ... I want to listen to ideas from Florida before we act. That's what I think we need to do before we lurch forward and maybe do something that would be ahead of the game."

Kaine's response to the Virginia Tech massacre can hardly be called lurching.

Federal gun laws already prohibit the sale of firearms to people who have been "adjudicated as a mental defective" by a court or involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility.

But the law has not been uniformly enforced or interpreted by the states. Only 22 states -- Florida and Virginia among them -- submit any type of mental-health records to the federal database.

Consequently, the reporting system is far from thorough, as Virginians tragically discovered:. The records of court-ordered evaluations at outpatient centers in the state were not sent to the database for background checks. Kaine's executive order corrects that.

Florida and many other states have the same flaws in their reporting. There's no need to study the issue, or to wait for the next tragedy to occur. Crist and other governors should act quickly, as Kaine did.

Yes, the privacy of mental-health patients must be handled with great care, as Crist indicated. But a court order is fair and sufficient reason to place an individual's name in the database and prevent that person from legally buying firearms

Officials in Washington also need to take action on this matter.

For four years, Congress has been sitting on a bill that would provide states with financial aid to automate the reporting of state records, including court-ordered psychiatric evaluations.

Now, Congress too has 58 reasons to act.

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At 12:53 AM, Blogger John Carey said...

Good for you Russ. The Gov of Florida haas lost his mind and I hope he legislature fights him.


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