The good news is that state officials tell The Star’s Tim Lockette that they are working to ensure that every Alabama county complies with the requirement that people ordered into treatment for mental illness be placed on a federal banned-gun sales list.
At the end of 2017, 18 of 67 county probate judges had not reported mental health commitments so that those citizens could be added to a federally mandated list of people barred from purchasing firearms. Those included on the the National Instant Criminal Background Check System no-sale list are felons and people forced to receive mental health treatment.
State Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Birmingham, who last year raised alarm bells over some probate judges failing to comply with the list, said the attorney general and county officials are trying to straighten things out.
“They are working with all 18 counties to get them compliant,” Treadaway told The Star.
However, Treadaway is concerned that some may have slipped through the cracks. “How far back does this go?” he said. “If one person has a gun in violation of the law, that’s a danger we need to do something about.”
The state’s incomplete firearms list is only part of a larger problem about how Alabama treats people suffering with mental illness. In October, Anniston Star reporter Kirsten Fiscus described a situation with too few beds to house the mentally ill, too little money to properly treat the mentally ill, too few resources to commit the mentally ill to treatment and too many law-enforcers in the line of fire when it comes to confronting mentally ill people who are armed and threatening themselves and others.
Fixing the state’s contributions to the gun-sales database is important. However, Gov. Kay Ivey and the Legislature face an even bigger challenge in doing what’s necessary to address the state’s glaring shortcomings when it comes to mental illness.
As Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade was quoted in Sunday’s Star, “There are a lot of people with mental illnesses who haven’t been committed. The problem is there’s almost no help for these people, period.”