Mentally ill gun ban stirs controversy in medical field

Published On: May 15 2013 02:52:28 PM EDT   Updated On: May 15 2013 02:53:26 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

A loophole in Florida law has allowed people diagnosed with mental illnesses to continue purchasing firearms -- that's until lawmakers closed the loophole with just one dissenting vote.

"If it's just one and they save one life, it's a significant bill," said Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami.

The bill gained support by Democrats and Republicans, plus the National Rifle Association.

"Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people with mental illness saves lives," said Marion Hammer, of the NRA.

The legislation requires people who voluntarily commit themselves to give up their gun rights.

"This only keeps mentally ill people who are determined to be dangerous from being able to buy guns," Hammer said.

But thousands have called or emailed the governor seeking a veto of the bill. Health officials worry the legislation will keep people from seeking treatment.

"It's likely to create the opposite effect of what legislators are intending," counselor Robert Carton said. "Not everybody with a mental illness is homicidal, not everybody with a mental illness is suicidal."

About 90,000 mentally ill people are prohibited from buying guns. If the governor signs the bill, that number is expected to dramatically increase.

If signed, the bill would go into effect July 1.