A 17-member task force, created by the Maryland General Assembly, was charged with examining the state's laws that prohibit gun purchases by some people who have been hospitalized for mental illnesses, reported the Baltimore Sun.
In particular, the panel was asked to look at whether the laws effectively protect the public, safeguard civil rights, and give law enforcement appropriate access to mental health records. And it was asked to recommend whether the access laws should be stricter.
The panel did not answer those questions. Patrick Dooley, task force co-chair and chief of staff at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said members found insufficient data to suggest that mentally ill people should for that reason alone be denied access to firearms.
"There wasn't that overwhelmingly strong connection," Dooley told the Sun. "We chose instead to focus on people who are making credible threats." The panel included law enforcement officials, gun-rights advocates, mental health experts, attorneys and policy experts.
The task force did propose authorizing police to seize firearms from individuals deemed a credible threat to themselves or others. Such seizures, the panel said, would take place after law enforcement "substantiated" reports from mental health providers, social workers and other professionals.
According to the Sun, other suggestions by the task force include:
•Preventing someone without immediate access to guns from purchasing them if he or she is deemed a credible threat.
•Mandatory reporting of threats by mental health professionals and others.
•More mental health training for police officers.
•More education on firearm laws for mental health providers.
•Establishing mental health crisis teams similar to one Montgomery County.
•Using revenue from gun permits and licenses to pay for training.
•Crafting a way for people who lose access to guns to get them back.
•Additional studies to look at the prevalence of mental illness among criminals as well as links among substance abuse, mental health and violence.
To read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-guns-and-mental-illness-20130102,0,4708217.story