Gun Background Checks Require Balance

Posted at: 02/07/2013 9:23 PM
Updated at: 02/08/2013 7:50 AM
By: Tim Sherno

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek recently met with President Obama to discuss gun control efforts.  Stanek would like to see stronger background checks, better sharing of existing mental health data, and greater access to mental health care. 

According to Sheriff Stanek, people with mental illness should be part of any possible background checks. "Do people think that those who have untreated mental illness should be able to purchase or possess firearms?"

One proposed bill currently under consideration at the Capitol in St. Paul could require someone apply for a gun purchase permit with past police contact who presents dangerous or violent behaviors or other concerns to obtain a letter from a health care provider affirming that the person is not seriously mentally ill.

Dr. Allen Steed, Ph.D., is a psychologist with Allina Medical Clinics, he doesn't like the idea incorporating mental illness screening in background checks, “I think that would be impossible; it would be silly to even try."  Dr. Steed believes fear of reporting and increased stigma related to mental illness would prevent some from seeking needed care.

Ed Eide is the Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Minnesota. Eide says linking gun violence to mental illness will have serious consequences, "We've worked so hard for so many years to get people to talk actually talk to their medical practitioners about their illness." Eide says it could reverse progress made in getting patients to openly discuss mental health concerns.