NY Times reports "U.S. Rules Made Killer Ineligible to Purchase Gun"


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karz10
April 21, 2007, 01:18 PM
I know there's already been some debate on here about whether Cho's previous run ins w/ the law, the judge, and the mental health system, should have restricted him from passing the background check, but this story is new, and debates it from both the state and federal level.

Now, I for one believe he would have done whatever he wanted to do, at the end of the day. In other words, he would have obtained his weapon of choice one way or another. And I also am not a big fan of the NY Times.

However, I thought others here that were interested in the specifics of the legalities might find this story interested, since it's from a prominent, although liberal source...

The sad thing about the article itself, they have a huge picture of Roanoke Firearms on the top of the story, but if you don't have an account, you may not be able to read it, so I'll paste the text...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/21/us/21guns.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

April 21, 2007
U.S. Rules Made Killer Ineligible to Purchase Gun
By MICHAEL LUO
WASHINGTON, April 20 — Under federal law, the Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho should have been prohibited from buying a gun after a Virginia court declared him to be a danger to himself in late 2005 and sent him for psychiatric treatment, a state official and several legal experts said Friday.

Federal law prohibits anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective,” as well as those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, from buying a gun.

The special justice’s order in late 2005 that directed Mr. Cho to seek outpatient treatment and declared him to be mentally ill and an imminent danger to himself fits the federal criteria and should have immediately disqualified him, said Richard J. Bonnie, chairman of the Supreme Court of Virginia’s Commission on Mental Health Law Reform.

A spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also said that if Mr. Cho had been found mentally defective by a court, he should have been denied the right to purchase a gun.

The federal law defines adjudication as a mental defective to include “determination by a court, board, commission or other lawful authority” that as a result of mental illness, the person is a “danger to himself or others.”

Mr. Cho’s ability to buy two guns despite his history has brought new attention to the adequacy of background checks that scrutinize potential gun buyers. And since federal gun laws depend on states for enforcement, the failure of Virginia to flag Mr. Cho highlights the often incomplete information provided by states to federal authorities.

Currently, only 22 states submit any mental health records to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement on Thursday. Virginia is the leading state in reporting disqualifications based on mental health criteria for the federal check system, the statement said.

Virginia state law on mental health disqualifications to firearms purchases, however, is worded slightly differently from the federal statute. So the form that Virginia courts use to notify state police about a mental health disqualification addresses only the state criteria, which list two potential categories that would warrant notification to the state police: someone who was “involuntarily committed” or ruled mentally “incapacitated.”

“It’s clear we have an imperfect connection between state law and the application of the federal prohibition,” Mr. Bonnie said. The commission he leads was created by the state last year to examine the state’s mental health laws.

Mr. Bonnie, the director of the University of Virginia Institute on Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, said his panel would look into the matter. “We are going to fix this,” he said.

“I’m sure that the misfit exists in states across the country and the underreporting exists,” he said.

After two female Virginia Tech students complained about Mr. Cho’s behavior in 2005, he was sent to a psychiatric unit for evaluation and then ordered to undergo outpatient treatment, which would not qualify as an involuntary commitment under Virginia law, Mr. Bonnie said.

“What they did was use the terms that fit Virginia law,” he said. “They weren’t thinking about the federal. I suspect nobody even knew about these federal regulations.”

But Christopher Slobogin, a law professor at the University of Florida who is an expert on mental health, said that under his reading of Virginia law, outpatient treatment could qualify as involuntary commitment, meaning Virginia law should have barred Mr. Cho from buying a weapon as well. Mr. Bonnie said he and the state’s attorney general disagreed with that interpretation.

Mr. Slobogin added that the federal statute “on the plain face of the language, it would definitely apply to Cho.”

A spokesman for the Virginia attorney general’s office declined to comment on Friday, saying only that various agencies were “reviewing this situation.”

Richard Marianos, a spokesman for the federal firearms agency, said Friday that federal and state officials were looking into the question, studying the court proceedings and testimony.

But Mr. Marianos added, “If he was adjudicated as a mental defective by a court, he should have been disqualified.”

Dennis Henigan, legal director at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said the oversight on the federal law in Virginia had probably been occurring for some time.

“They may have been doing this for years, just basically assuming, if the guy’s not disqualified under state law, then we don’t have to send anything to the state police,” Mr. Henigan said. “It’s a failure to recognize the independent obligation to the federal law.”

Most states do not follow the letter of the federal law when it comes to the mental health provisions, said Ron Honberg, legal director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an advocacy group.

“I suspect if we look at all the requirements that exist for the states, there’s probably a whole lot of them that don’t implement them,” Mr. Honberg said, explaining that the gap often comes from a lack of resources but also because no one is enforcing the requirements.

“When something like this happens, then people start to pay attention to this,” he said.

Representative Carolyn McCarthy, Democrat of New York, has been pushing a bill to require states to automate their criminal history records so computer databases used to conduct background checks on gun buyers are more complete.

The bill would also require states to submit their mental health records to their background check systems and give them money to allow them to do so.

According to gun control advocates, the mental health information currently submitted to the national check system is often spotty and incomplete, something Ms. McCarthy’s bill is designed to address.

Representative John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan and a former member of the National Rifle Association’s board of directors, is co-sponsoring the bill, which has twice passed the House only to stall in the Senate. Congressional aides say Mr. Dingell is negotiating with pro-gun groups to come up with language acceptable to them.

“The N.R.A. doesn’t have objections,” Mr. Dingell said in an interview. “There are other gun organizations on this that are problems.”

A spokesman for the rifle association declined to comment Friday on the legislation, but Mr. Dingell said the measure could prevent future tragedies.

“It resolves some serious problems in terms of preventing the wrong people from getting firearms,” he said.


Karz

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Blakenzy
April 21, 2007, 01:29 PM
You see children, we already have more than enough "sensible" gun laws; it is the failiure of the authorities to apply them that is the root of the problem.

MORE GUN LAWS ACOMPLISH NOTHING. NEW GUN LAWS ARE NOT NEEDED.

'nough said.

geronimotwo
April 21, 2007, 04:13 PM
Now, I for one believe he would have done whatever he wanted to do, at the end of the day. In other words, he would have obtained his weapon of choice one way or another.

i think some people don't know how to go outside the system. i for one would have no clue how to buy a gun that wasn't legal. that doesn't mean that he wouldn't have found some other way.

Art Eatman
April 21, 2007, 06:11 PM
"After two female Virginia Tech students complained about Mr. Cho’s behavior in 2005, he was sent to a psychiatric unit for evaluation and then ordered to undergo outpatient treatment, which would not qualify as an involuntary commitment under Virginia law, Mr. Bonnie said."

Sent by whom? By what judge, what court? If it wasn't by court order, Cho was home free. And earlier stories said that the psychiatrists at the unit "recommended" he seek counselling.

The federal ban for a mental case speaks to a court ruling--and only a court ruling. I've yet to see a news article which specifies the court.

(Might have happened; so far, though, the past news that I've seen doesn't support the NYT headline.)

Art

Pietro Beretta
April 21, 2007, 07:25 PM
i think some people don't know how to go outside the system. i for one would have no clue how to buy a gun that wasn't legal.

Your kidding right?


It really is a lot easier to get a firearm illegally than "most" people think.

I am 22, I could get ANY firearm I would want illegaly, any firearm, no joke.

I decide to play by the rules, I stay legal and legit when it comes to firearms, and do not have plans to obtain an illegal one.

RealGun
April 21, 2007, 07:38 PM
Sent by whom? By what judge, what court? If it wasn't by court order, Cho was home free. And earlier stories said that the psychiatrists at the unit "recommended" he seek counselling.

The federal ban for a mental case speaks to a court ruling--and only a court ruling. I've yet to see a news article which specifies the court.

(Might have happened; so far, though, the past news that I've seen doesn't support the NYT headline.)

Art, I think this may be what you need:

Names and dates...pretty credible report from CNN: (http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/18/vtech.shooting/index.html?eref=rss_topstories)


relevant excerpt:

CNN also learned Wednesday that in 2005 Cho was declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice, who declared he was "an imminent danger" to himself, a court document states.

A temporary detention order from General District Court in the commonwealth of Virginia said Cho "presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness."

A box indicating that the subject "Presents an imminent danger to others as a result of mental illness" was not checked.

In another part of the form, Cho was described as "mentally ill and in need of hospitalization, and presents an imminent danger to self or others as a result of mental illness, or is so seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for self, and is incapable of volunteering or unwilling to volunteer for treatment."

A handwritten section of the form describes Cho. "Affect is flat and mood is depressed," said the order, which was signed December 14 by Special Justice Paul M. Barnett. "He denies suicidal ideation. He does not acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder. His insight and judgment are normal."

Student complaints
Police first investigated Cho in November 2005 after a student complained about him calling her and contacting her in person, university police Chief Wendell Flinchum said. (Watch how police learned of Cho's troubles )

Cho was sent to the university's Office of Judicial Affairs, which handled the complaint, the outcome of which is confidential, university officials said.

"The student declined to press charges and referred to Cho's contact with her as annoying," Flinchum said of the November investigation.

Police investigated him again the next month when a female student complained about instant messages Cho sent her, Flinchum said.

"Again, no threat was made against that student. However, she made a complaint to the Virginia Tech Police Department and asked that Cho have no further contact with her," the chief said.

After police spoke to Cho, they received a call from a student concerned that he might be suicidal.

Officers spoke to Cho "at length" then asked him to see a counselor. He agreed to be evaluated by Access Services, an independent mental health facility in Blacksburg, the chief said.

"A temporary detention order was obtained and Cho was taken to a mental health facility" on December 13, 2005, he said.

A student asking to be identified only as Andy said he was the one who told police that Cho was suicidal. Police "took [Cho] away to the counseling center for a night or two," said the student, who used to room with Cho. (Watch Cho's roommates describe his 'crazy' behavior )

Authorities said they received no more complaints about Cho before the shootings, Flinchum said.

RealGun
April 21, 2007, 08:25 PM
However, to serve Art's point about running with a story without facts, there are several reports that state "Cho may have been taking medication". They are all using the same quote, not a single one citing any evidence or source other than "investigators say".

A roommate is quoted as saying that there was no sign of any prescription in Cho's room.

Having recently inherited 1000 shares of Pfizer stock (Zoloft, etc.), I have an interest in this question, and that's aside from being a Prozac, Wellbutrin, and Paxil veteran licensed to carry a handgun and doing okay, thank you.

Pfizer attorneys invented the secret "Zoloft defense" against "the pills made me/him/her do it". You can bet they are working this case.

We are already speculating about the hammer falling on gun owners who take antidepressants, and after spending some time with Google there seems to be no evidence so far that these medications were even implicated in the VT shooting incident. It seems like the rumor that gets treated as fact.

LawBot5000
April 21, 2007, 08:40 PM
If SSRI users keep showing up as the perpretrators of spree killings, it eventually wont matter how good Pfizer's lawyers are. All they need is one incriminating document showing that the company knew about the risks of violent psychosis from taking SSRIs and they are on the hook for billions in damages.

RealGun
April 21, 2007, 09:03 PM
If SSRI users keep showing up as the perpretrators of spree killings, it eventually wont matter how good Pfizer's lawyers are. All they need is one incriminating document showing that the company knew about the risks of violent psychosis from taking SSRIs and they are on the hook for billions in damages.

Major responsibility rests with diagnosis and the choice of which drug to prescribe. When I started on antidepressants in 1991, no longer on them, only a psychiatrist would or could prescribe the meds. Now I believe most any doctor writes prescriptions but may not necessarily make the determination of which drug it will be. I was able to get refills from a new GP doctor, but changing medication was not open for discussion. The point is that the medication choice is done by a specialist. I really don't know if that is still the case.

Desertdog
April 21, 2007, 10:39 PM
Were the guns purchesed Illegally? I keep hearing that 1 gun was purchrd on date X/X/X and the second gun was purched on date X/X/X, but no references as to what gun shop sold them.

Another none news item, heard is 1 time, was that the serial numers were filed off.

Legal purches or..?

gm
April 21, 2007, 11:56 PM
And I heard he was a firebug as well.Arson is a felony.Felony=no sale legally.

karz10
April 22, 2007, 02:20 AM
Were the guns purchesed Illegally? I keep hearing that 1 gun was purchrd on date X/X/X and the second gun was purched on date X/X/X, but no references as to what gun shop sold them.

Another none news item, heard is 1 time, was that the serial numers were filed off.

Legal purches or..?

Yeah, on 2/9 I believe he picked up the .22 at a pawn shop locally, but it was ordered online (one report said gunsource.com, believe from CNN) and had it shipped to an FFL. Then on 3/x a little over 30 days later (to wait the minimum 30 days between purchases in VA) he went to Roanoke Firearms to buy the G19, this was widely publicized, and officials perliminary report indicated neither the online dealer, pawn shop, or gun shop did anything wrong, although they're double checking, I'm sure.... but all accounts to date that I'm aware of indicate a legal purchase... (aside from the debate over the mental health and whether something should have been flagged on his NCIS), but nothing bad implicating any of the shops...

So, yes it is weird about the serial numbers being obliterated, and they said they found a dremmel type tool in his room that he likely used to destroy the numbers, which led to speculation, maybe in his original plan, he didn't take himself out, maybe he thought he could get away, ditch the guns as untraceable, and not die...


And I heard he was a firebug as well.Arson is a felony.Felony=no sale legally. I heard/read that too, but so much was going on then, I can't remember where, I thought some news agency reported something about a fire started in a dorm or something, maybe a trash can? Don't know details, maybe it wasn't big enough to pose a danger and it got let go... If it was serious AT ALL, then you'd think it would get looked into, and yes, an arson charge should do something to one's record...

Karz

Robert Hairless
April 22, 2007, 03:54 AM
Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 people with a rented truck carrying a load of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and nitromethane racing fuel. Ramsi Yousuf and his conspirators murdered six people and injured 1,042 more in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing with the same method used by McVeigh. Nineteen "freedom fighters" murdered more than 3,000 people when they crashed three hijacked airplanes on September 11, 2001.

Please couldn't they expand NICs to include background checks on people who rent trucks, buy fertilizer and racing fuel, and fly on airplanes or enter airports. It would help prevent a great many deaths.

ingram
April 22, 2007, 05:31 AM
There has been much done to curb the availability and ease of attaining ammonium nitrate, also methods to make it inert as an explosive. I wouldn't use that specific thing as an argument.

LAR-15
April 22, 2007, 11:09 AM
“The N.R.A. doesn’t have objections,” Mr. Dingell said in an interview. “There are other gun organizations on this that are problems.”

Art Eatman
April 22, 2007, 12:26 PM
Let's stay focussed on Cho, okay?

Thanks, RealGun.

I guess the next question about the law and eligibility is whether this temporary order meets the federal requirement for denial of right to purchase. I'd just as soon not speculate, myself; I don't know enough about the details of the law or the interpretations.

The followup question is that of communication between the VA court and the FBI, if appropriate. (Which is the point of the Dingell bill, discussed in another thread.)

Art

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