Mental Illness and Guns: Maryland Loopholes Scrutinized in Wake of UMd Tragedy

5:50 PM, Feb 13, 2013   |    comments
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WUSA) --  In uncounted cases, Maryland's law does not require the reporting of severely mentally ill people to the states gun prohibition database even though they may have been hospitalized and made specific threats. 

In particular, patients seeing their own doctors, or who are treated in private hospitals are never reported, according to a January report by the Task Force to Study Access of Individuals with Mental Illness to Regulated Firearms.

The gaps in the law are being scrutinized in the wake of the murder suicide tragedy in College Park Tuesday that left two students dead and one wounded.

The shooter, 23-year-old graduate engineering student Dayvon Green was brilliant, and an intern at NASA.  He was also mentally ill, according to police investigating the tragedy.

Despite his illness, Green was able to legally purchase not one, but two regulated handguns in the months leading up to the tragedy at the off-campus house she shared in the 87-hundred block of 36th Street in College Park with two other students.

One of the guns was an assault-style UZI semi-automatic pistol.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has proposed legislation that would require broader reporting, including civil commitments of patients to non-state hospitals, and of people who have been placed under guardianship.  Currently neither group is prohibited from buying guns.

The legislation is part of a larger package of gun bills now moving through Maryland's legislature.

The Task Force has further recommended that therapists, doctors and police should be forced to report people who make threats to themselves or others into the database.

The Task Force report says research indicates that mental illness alone is not necessarily a good predictor of violent behavior. However mental illness combined with substance abuse, threats, and a history of violence is a potentially dangerous mix when there is access to guns.  The current gun regulation system offers no way to make such an assessment, the Task Force Report says. 

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