New bill seeks to tackle mental health component of gun violence

By Amy Cherry 4:03pm, April 22, 2013 - Updated 4:31pm, April 22, 2013
Attorney General Beau Biden talks about the bipartisan legislation he's backing.
New legislation, backed by Attorney General Beau Biden, seeks to strengthen the state's mental health prohibition on gun ownership.

WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.

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People determined by the court to be a danger to themselves or others, those found guilty but mentally ill, or those incompetent to stand trial would be barred from possessing a gun.

Attorney General Beau Biden says the hope is this will prevent mass murders like Sandy Hook and the tragedy in Aurora Colorado, from happening here.

"A month before that massacre, (James) Holmes told his psychiatrist that he wanted to kill people. His psychiatrist alerted University of Colorado police, and his campus ID was deactivated," says Biden.

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Perhaps the most controversial provision: parents of mentally ill teens could also have guns taken away.

"It would depend upon a judge's order about the child's access to that weapon and whether them living in a home for which they have access is in violation of the law," Biden says.

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But to be clear, Biden says, "Just seeking mental health treatment does not prohibit you from owning or possessing a gun.

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If these individuals, who are prohibited from possessing a gun, demonstrate to a court that they're no longer a danger to themselves and others, they can get their guns back under the legislation.

Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf says this measure could've saved the lives of the youth who killed themselves in Kent and Sussex Counties last year.

"Many of those individuals took their life by use of firearm, and that is pretty significant when you think about the loss of life," says Landgraf.

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The measure has bipartisan support with Rep. Mike Barbieri (D-Newark), Sen. David Sokola (D-Newark) and Rep. Debbie Hudson (R-Fairthorne) being its prime sponsor. The medical community is also backing the measure.

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