Next month sees a new state law taking effect which requires probate judges to forward names of every individual involuntarily committed in to mental facilities in order to bar them from gun ownership. Currently an individuals name can only be submitted by a probate judge to a national database if evidence of use and/or a threat exists of use of a dangerous instrument or a firearm. The new law becomes effective September 1st and was signed in to law on June 4th.

Giving or selling a firearm and/or ammunition to an individual defined as mentally defective is prohibited by Federal law. The law also extends to any individual committed to a mental institution. The loophole has now been closed as reporting was not required by state law. To date few names have been submitted by probate judges to Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center as they were not seen as a threat but had stopped taking medication and had become a danger to themselves. However only a handful of names between Morgan County, Limestone and Lawrence counties have been submitted. Probate judges also put forward that it is beneficial to those who are committed.

The law is also considered fair because it is inclusive an appeals procedure. Both laws, existing and new, allows an individual who has been committed to appeal following release from the mental institution. A district court appeal can restore the individual’s right to gun ownership. Although an advocate of mental health is unsure how the law will help. Irrespective of an individual’s state of mind a background check can be avoided if a firearm is purchased from a private seller as opposed to a licensed dealer.

Questions are still ongoing about the mental health of high profile killings. The theater shootings in Colorado and Louisiana, the Washington Nvy Yard and The Chattanooga recruitment center has stirred national debate about the mentally ill and gun ownership. A form is now filed that will then be submitted to the FBI criminal background check database.

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