TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Thousands of people who have been in mental institutions have been able to purchases guns because of a loophole in Florida law.
Gun buyers must fill out a form when purchasing a gun. One question asks specifically if the buyer if they have every been committed to a mental institution. But records in Florida miss thousands of people who voluntarily checked themselves in for treatment before being ordered to seek help, avoiding a court record of their illness.
Lawmakers are now acting to close the loophole, and the measure is supported by the National Rifle Association.
"This is a good bill. It is essential to being able to follow the law to keep people with mental illnesses from purchasing firearms," said Marion Hammer, of the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida.
Under the legislation, anyone voluntarily checking themselves in for mental health treatment would have to sign a form acknowledging they would have been ordered to seek help if they do not go voluntarily, and that they give up their right to gun ownership.
"If it's just one and it saves one life, it is a significant bill," said Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami, who sponsored the bill. "I believe we can say that some of those issues, had they been in place across the nation, would have prevented maybe Sandy Hook."
Technically, even those who commit themselves voluntarily are required to check yes on the gun purchase form, but with the loophole, their names don't show up in the background check made at purchase. Being mentally ill doesn't prevent someone from always owning a gun.
"This just puts a mechanism in place so that we can better follow the law," Hammer said.
More than 90,000 people are on the Florida database of those adjudicated mentally ill.
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