New gun laws set sights on mental health

Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza circa 2005. (Source: ABC 7/MGN Online)
Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza circa 2005. (Source: ABC 7/MGN Online)

As of Jan. 1, Clerks of Court in each parish are required to report to the Louisiana Supreme Court when a citizen loses their right to possess a firearm through criminal or civil proceedings. That can happen when the person is convicted of certain crimes, found not guilty by reason of insanity, found not competent to stand trial or involuntarily committed to an institution. The Supreme Court then forwards that information to the NICS system.

The Louisiana Clerks of Court Association worked with the Supreme Court to implement the new statewide system. Debbie Hudnall is the Association's Executive Director.

"The felonies will be done automatically on the computer system that's in place now," Hudnall said. "The misdemeanors that might require gun restrictions, that's going to require the software changes for the clerks, and in the meantime they'll be filling out forms for those."

The forms are relatively straightforward and do not require any other medical information. The new laws mean nothing new for retailers or consumers.

"Just like a felon, if you were somehow adjudicated mentally defective it's just a way to flag it out," said Jim McClain of Jim's Firearms.

"As long as [the database] keeps improving I think that's a great thing. It's just when it gets bogged down with a bunch of stuff that shouldn't be there is when I'll start having issues with it," he said.

The burden falls on the Clerks of Court.

"Clerks certainly understand the need of this, but the clerks receive no state monies. This is a cost that the clerks are having to incur, because this is going to take man hours to do this and they get no monies for doing this," Hudnall said.

The laws also make it mandatory for all 64 parishes to report all misdemeanor and felony criminal dispositions to the Supreme Court. Hudnall said only 51 parishes had been voluntarily submitting that information.

Anyone who's flagged for mental health reasons in the NICS database does have the ability to get his or her gun rights restored. If approved by a judge the clerk would submit an updated form to the Supreme Court.

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