Mitchell: Bill aims to address mental health crises and guns
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We’ve all had bad days.
But what about those periods when it seems like all of the troubles of the world have landed on your doorstep?
Unfortunately, all too often the person walking under this kind of cloud has nowhere to turn. That sense of isolation is even more dangerous when a gun is close at hand.
A bill that would make it easier for family members and police officers to intervene in such a mental health crisis passed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
HB 2354 and SB 1291 would create a “Lethal Violence Order of Protection,” similar to an order of protection in domestic violence cases.
“The heart of this is looking at the intersection between mental illness and gun violence,” said Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition.
Under the proposed legislation, a petitioner could file an affidavit alleging that the gun owner poses an “immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to himself, herself, or another possessing or receiving a firearm.”
The duplicate bills are the initiative of the Coalition and the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and are opposed by the National Rifle Association.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, gave several reasons why that is the case.
“The bad part about it is you don’t have any due process. If you are the target of the bill, this could happen to you and you not even know it,” he said.
Pearson also said the bill could be used as a “weapon” against other people and is the “perfect tool for profiling.”
“If a police officer wanted to get a person off the street, they could file these charges against the person,” he said.
Daley said the gun owners would get their day in court before a judge.
She talked to legislators who represent families that have lots of firearms, and they are better able to relate to the need to temporarily remove guns during a crisis.
“Life is hard, no doubt about it. If you had a gun sitting right next to you . . . This is empowering family members and law enforcement,” she said.
Among other things, the proposed law would allow an immediate family member of a law enforcement official to petition the court for an order of protection. The court also would be allowed to restrain an individual from purchasing or possessing a firearm for one year.
Anyone filing a false petition could face criminal penalties.
A gun owner would have the right to appeal the court’s decision once that year, and then get their guns back, if successful in their petition.
Under current federal law, a person who involuntarily goes into a mental health facility is prohibited from owning a firearm. In Illinois, if someone voluntarily goes into a mental health facility, that person is prohibited from owning a firearm for five years.
“This is an alternative. A person could get treatment and not lose their right [to own a gun] for that long,” Daley said of the proposed legislation.
State Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago) is one of the chief sponsors of the Senate bill.
She pointed to the shocking domestic violence tragedy in St. Charles, where twin sisters Tiffany and Brittany Coffland were fatally shot, and their mother, Anjum Coffland, was wounded.
Their father, Randall Coffland, turned the gun on himself after calling 911 dispatchers.
“I think there were prior warnings,” Collins said.
“In most domestic violence cases if an individual has a firearm, the woman becomes the victim of someone in their own environment,” Collins said.
“But she is the first person that is aware that she is in a dangerous environment. Even if she contacts the police, we know from previous casualties, the police are too late,” Collins continued.
“We have to have some kind of additional protective measure because of the easy access to guns in certain communities,” she said.
Dark days pass.
But you can’t take back a bullet.Tweets by @MaryMitchellCST