The Great Falls Tribune notes some data from the anti-gun Mayors Against Illegal Guns (NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group) which indicates that five states – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming – have flagged only 13 people who would be disqualified from owning guns (via Aaron Flint):
WASHINGTON — Only 13 people in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska would fail a federal background check to buy a gun because of mental illness, records show.
By comparison, Colorado, with roughly the same population of the five Northwest states combined, would bar about 35,000 people from purchasing a gun due to mental illness.
These numbers, as of last October, show that even as the U.S. Senate prepares to take up legislation next month to include private sales among the types of gun purchases that require a background check, there remains a great variation among states on the submission of mental health records to the federal background database.
One way to look at this is that some states are more aggressive in submitting mental health records than others. Another way to look at it is that some states may have a lower threshold for disqualifying someone from owning guns because of mental health issues.
Given that the definition of mental illness has been greatly expanded over the last several decades, this is an area where we should tread lightly. While none of us wants a gun in the hands of someone truly mentally ill, on the other hand we don’t want to deny gun rights based on trivial ailments.