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Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Mental Health Reform Includes Proposal to Undermine Background Check System, Let People With Dangerous Mental Illness Buy Guns

On Wednesday, February 10th, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on mental health reform titled, “Breaking the Cycle: Mental Health and the Justice System.” One of the bills likely to be discussed is Senator Cornyn’s bill, S. 2002, deceptively titled “Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015.” The bill actually poses significant risk to public safety by allowing people with dangerous mental illness to buy guns.

The bottom line: S. 2002 would invalidate hundreds of thousands of mental health records already in the background check system, allowing people who have been involuntarily committed due to dangerous mental illness to buy a gun immediately after leaving a psychiatric hospital. The bill would also throw out all Veterans Affairs’ records of beneficiaries who suffer from dangerous mental illness, enabling those at risk of suicide to legally buy guns.

This bill unnecessarily and inaccurately conflates the problems of mental health and gun violence, as research shows that only four percent of violent crime is associated with diagnosable mental illness. And by removing existing safety measures, this bill ultimately undermines the one thing research shows will reduce gun violence: background checks.

These poison pills in S.2002 should be deal breakers for any bipartisan consensus on mental health reform. That’s why it’s opposed by the American Psychiatric Association and by leading experts in mental health law and policy.

More information on the dangers posed by this bill is available here.