'Our Right to Own' Part 3: Public figures react

Local - 2/21/2013 5:37 PM by Rebecca Turco

BECKLEY - Local politicians and law enforcement are speaking out about gun control and mental illnesses.

Sheriff Steve Tanner of Raleigh County said he thinks more money needs to be put into the mental health field. "Most of the spree killings we've seen of recent in the last few years have been committed by people who have been in mental institutions and described as psychotic and homicidal."

Tanner said he believes certain mental illnesses should be included in background checks. "I've had people that I've seen purchasing weapons [that] I knew were mentally ill and stopped them from making the purchase."

Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall of West Virginia said in the debate about gun control, violence in our culture must be examined. "We have to look at violence in the media," he said. "We have to look at our mental health laws. We have to look at the background checks. We have to ensure that the deranged individual intent on doing another person harm does not get a gun."

Republican Representative John O'Neal of Raleigh County said gun crimes can not be stopped from happening altogether, but we can still try to deter them. "I think we've got to take a few steps to try to reduce the number of people that are mentally ill having access to these kind of weapons," he said.

The majority of Americans support increasing mental health treatment to help reduce gun violence, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. In a recent national survey, 75 percent of gun owners said they would support a policy where health care providers would be required to report to the background-check system people who threaten to harm themselves or others.

But health privacy laws would have to change in order for such a policy to happen. "It's something that we do have to address legislatively," said Tanner. "The records are available we just simply need a warehouse so they can be accessed at a common source."


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