Why Gun Background Checks Don’t Prevent Ft. Hood-Style Mass Shootings


The killings at Fort Hood was another brutal reminder of the complexity of the task of keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, says the Wall Street Journal. Although a commander noted “strong evidence” that alleged attacker Ivan Lopez, had a history of psychiatric problems, he was able to purchase legally the .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic handgun used in the shooting at a local gun store, Guns Galore in Killeen, Texas. The federal background-check process screens out only people declared mentally unfit by a court or similar body, a high legal standard.

“There’s no question that those with mental health issues should be prevented from owning weapons or being able to purchase weapons,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). “We need to continue to look…to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.” Among the requirements to deny a person a gun: The buyer has to be considered a danger to himself or others. A simple diagnosis of mental illness isn’t enough. Requiring people, or their doctors, to report every trip to a psychologist or psychotherapist would raise significant privacy issues, said UCLA law Prof. Adam Winkler. Such a policy could also create a disincentive to people looking to seek counseling. More expansive changes in the background check system would likely require support from Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sais yesterday he had no plans to bring back gun-control legislation.

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