FRANKFORT, Ky. — On Thursday, State Rep. Leslie Combs, (D-Pikeville), called Kentucky “among the nation’s leaders in making sure those with qualified mental health issues are kept from buying firearms.”
“While I am 100 percent in favor of protecting gun rights, I feel just as strongly that we must do more to promote mental health awareness and increase treatment,” Combs said. “Fortunately, we have taken a major step forward in this area”
Kentucky’s Administrative Office of the Courts submitted to the Kentucky State Police a notice of 3,521 people that the AOC had determined to have mental health issues defined in the federal Gun Control Act from June 8, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2012, a release from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission stated.
Each of those disqualified individuals were entered into the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) used for background checks when buying firearms.
“We are now one of just 17 states complying with a federal law encouraging states to report the mental health eligibility of individuals to the NICS database,” Combs said.
Kentucky added its name to the list of states during the 2011 Regular Session, when the General Assembly unanimously passed House Bill 308.
“This law has performed exactly as we intended, and just as importantly, it sets out a reasonable set of legal rules that gives affected citizens a way to have this right restored if they qualify,” Combs said. “It’s an even-handed approach that shows that Kentucky is far ahead of the curve when it comes to treating gun rights and mental health concerns responsibly.”
Other officials shared Combs’ enthusiasm in the Bluegrass State’s approach on mental health and gun control.
“Even though I may differ with Rep. Combs and the National Rifle Association on many issues involving guns, this is an area where we share common ground, and I am happy to see that Kentucky is playing a leading role in this regard,” State Rep. Jim Wayne, (D-Louisville), said. “Rep. Combs and I also stand together in believing that more funding is needed for mental health services.”
“It is a longstanding position of the NRA that those who have been adjudicated as mentally incompetent and deemed to be a danger to themselves or others should not have access to firearms,” Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said. “We are pleased that Kentucky has been a leader in this area and we applaud the work of Rep. Combs to ensure those with dangerous mental illnesses are included in the NICS.”
The state representative noted that states like Louisiana were now playing catch-up in the wake of mass shootings like those in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., last year.
Earlier this month, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal urged his state’s legislature to join the other complying states because the mentally ill are “slipping through the cracks…It is imperative that we take proactive steps to prevent them from harming either themselves or others.”
“That’s the same thought we had here in Kentucky, except we took action two years ago,” Combs said.