BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One Louisiana senator has drafted a bill that, if it passes, would make it illegal for anyone found innocent of a violent crime by reason of insanity to purchase a firearm.
"There's a huge loophole in the state law," said Senator Bodi White.
Senate Bill 411 would make it illegal for anyone who has been found innocent of a violent crime by reason of insanity to possess a gun or carry a concealed weapon. One such case White related the bill to was the recent attempted shooting of a police officer in February.
Eugene Thomas Jr. is charged with attempted first degree murder of a police officer and four counts of attempted first degree murder. Police say Thomas allegedly shot at his family first, then at a police officer. "He was shot in the face and he was shot through his windshield, but he was shot by Eugene Thomas," said White.
His mother spoke out in February, saying her son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia with depression and that he had stopped taking his medications. "He comes and goes. His mind comes and goes. One minute he's Eugene, the next minute he's somebody else," said Stephanie Hardnett, Thomas' mother.
Thomas was arrested in 2002 for second degree murder, but was found innocent by reason of insanity and sent to a mental health facility for help. White says he was arrested again in 2009 for felon in possession of gun, but technically he was never convicted of a felony, so the district attorney could not move forward.
"Mr. Thomas had been released earlier before he shot at this police officer. He shot at his family members, so he obviously has no problem getting a hold of a gun because he had a gun in 2002. He was arrested in 2009 and had a gun and in 2018. He had a gun," said White.
White says his bill would make a change. Currently, out of the three people required to determine if someone is safe enough to be released from a mental health facility or get off probation, only one person has to approve the decision. If White's bill passes, all three would have to be unanimous in their approval.
The bill now heads to the senate floor. White says this is already a federal law, but he wants to make it a state law as well.