In the state of California, people with a history of mental illness are supposed to have a very hard time buying guns. But with poor enforcement of gun regulations, many can still stroll into a firearms shop and purchase a weapon. As seen in the Navy Yard tragedy and other recent mass shootings, guns in the hands of the mentally disturbed can cause serious problems.
According to CBS San Francisco Bay, tens of thousands of mentally ill people have guns. CBS interviewed Barbara Alexander, the mother of one man with deep psychological issues who got a gun and wound up in a standoff with police officers. At the age of 40, her son had been hospitalized multiple times for mental problems.
“He was in a parking lot, in a public place,” she said. “They sent the swat team, helicopters came up, it was quite horrifying.”
Despite his record, Barbara’s son was able to buy a semi-automatic rifle, among other firearms.
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According to state law, courts and mental health facilities are supposed to report the names of mentally unstable people so that they are placed on a “no gun” list. But according to an audit, at least 34 courts in California did not make needed notifications, resulting in at least 2,300 unreported incidents. Some courts have not reported any cases at all.
“The Santa Clara Superior Court did not notify Justice about any of its determinations that an individual was to be committed to a mental health facility for an extended period or that an individual's conservatorship was to be terminated early," said the report.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, more than 20,800 people in California who are banned from owning guns had firearms as of July 2013. This includes felons as well as the mentally ill.
According to CBS, the Department of Justice is scheduled to have the Armed Prohibited Persons database up to date by the year 2016. However, the state auditor reports that given the current backlog and slow progress, the list will probably not be complete until 2019.