GOP senators started putting their weight behind a bill this week the party is sure will help fix the federal background check system on firearms purchases in the country by incentivizing states to report potentially dangerous, mentally-ill people, according to the bill’s sponsor, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
The bill, backed by the National Rifle Association, represents claims made by conservative politicians and gun rights advocates that the solution to mass shootings isn’t in an expansion of the background system, but in states’ reporting their mental health records to that system.
The Texas senator introduced the bill, S. 2002: “Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015” in August, and on Tuesday received support from Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts and Sen. Roy Blunt from Missouri. On Monday, Sens. Michael Crapo, Idaho, John McCain, Arizona, Dean Heller, Nevada, Bill Cassidy, Louisiana, and GOP presidential candidate Lindsey Graham from South Carolina also backed the bill.
Also supporting the bill is the National Alliance on Mental Health, who applauded an amendment proposal in the bill clarifying terminology from the 1968 Gun Control Act the group deems offensive. In the bill, those defined as “persons adjudicated as mentally defective” will be referred to “persons adjudicated as incompetent.”
Opponents of the bill also want to see guns kept out of the hands of the mentally ill, but argue the bill will do the exact opposite.
Under current federal law, those individuals who have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions or otherwise found to be incompetent cannot posses a firearm for life. Under the law, voluntary commitments are exempt and the right to purchase and possess a firearm can be reinstated by a court.