Group says South Dakota lax on key gun records

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A national group that fights gun violence says South Dakota is one of the worst states in terms of sharing mental health records for use in background checks.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns issued a report this month that said South Dakota has shared only one mental health record in 20 years with the federal government’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, according to the Argus Leader newspaper (http://argusne.ws/1aMyxaU ). The background database was created to enable gun dealers to check buyers for firearms restrictions — a requirement since the passage of the Brady Bill in 1993.

States are expected to submit records on people with a mental illness that might disqualify them from owning a gun, but many states are failing to help keep the database up to date, according to the mayors’ group.

“The Brady Bill was a major step toward keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous individuals, but we still have much more work to do to fulfill its purpose,” said Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City and co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

The South Dakota Legislature earlier this year debated the issue of mental health and gun records but did not come to a resolution.

Some legislators unsuccessfully pushed a bill that would have given county boards of mental health the authority to determine whether people committed involuntarily for mental health treatment pose a potential threat to themselves or others and make a record of the designation for submission to the background checks database. The decision would have required a hearing, and the person affected could have appealed to a circuit court.

Yankton civil rights lawyer David Hosmer wrote the proposal and told members of the Health and Human Services Committee in January that the goal was to strike a balance between no reporting at all and reporting the names of everyone who ever had been committed for mental health or drug use.

“Please think about how this is a compromise between what the federal government wants us to do and nothing, which is what we’re doing now,” Hosmer said. “If I wanted to find a list of folks in South Dakota with a psychiatric disorder who were a danger to themselves or others, I couldn’t find it.”

The proposal had the support of the Unified Judicial System, the Department of Social Services and the South Dakota Sheriffs’ Association. The bill died in a close committee vote after advocates for the mentally ill said the database would further stigmatize those with medical conditions.

The issue of mental health and gun records is likely to come up again, Attorney General Marty Jackley said.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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