KNAU and Arizona News
9:42 am
Thu January 20, 2011

Tucson Lawmaker Wants Mentally Unstable to be on List to Prohibit Gun Purchases

Phoenix, AZ – Matt Heinz wants to require all public entitles, including
schools, community colleges and universities, to notify the
Department of Public Safety when a person has -- quote --
suffered a significant or severe psychological episode or
incident. DPS would get that person's name, date of birth and
social security number. Heinz He said the real goal is to get
that information into the same database that gun shops must check
before making a sale to see if the would-be buyer is precluded
from having a weapon -- a database that already includes people
convicted of felonies and those on probation after being
convicted of domestic violence offenses.

(In light of the recent events in Tucson, there were some
indicators that preceded those events involving the alleged
shooter that I believe could have been reported. And had they
been reported to a database, that perhaps this individual would
not have been able to obtain a weapon in the way that he did.)

In this case campus police at Pima Community College reported
they had met with Jared Loughner five times over seven months
about classroom outbursts and other behavior issues before he
ultimately was suspended. Alessandra Meetze (pronounced METZ) of
the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said she
understands what Heinz is trying to do. But she said the measure
he introduced is flawed.

(The bill refers to significant or severe psychological episodes
or incidents. Now, who determines what qualifies as a significant
or severe psychological episode. It doesn't specify. Is that a
professional medical determination?)

Heinz conceded his legislation does not spell out when the line
is crossed. But he said that, in his mind, there is no question
but that the activities attributed to Loughner would fit the
definition.

(When it gets to the point where an institution such as Pima
Community College or any institution of higher learning, or any
political subdivision removes or dis-enrolls a person because of
that instability, I think that crosses the line where it needs to
be reported.)

Nor does Heinz believe that only medical professionals should be
the ones to make that decision rather than lay people without
specialized training.

(These are the folks who are with these individuals more than
anyone else. And I wouldn't say that professors, board members
and those who have experience in educational institutions are
just 'lay' people. They have a tremendous amount of experience
with psycho-social circumstances and actually could be invaluable
in helping detect these kinds of things in the future.)

Meetze's concerns do not end there. She pointed out that the
legislation has no provision to tell someone he or she has been
added to this database, nor any way to appeal such a finding.

(Somebody from a community college could include you, make this
determination, include you in this database. And you will never
know that your name has been entered into this database.)

Heinz said he is willing to work with anyone to improve the
legislation. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.