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Sens. Begich and Graham Lead Bipartisan Effort on Legislation to Address Mental Illness and Gun Violence

Brings Together Unlikely Allies to Keep Communities Safe, Protect Second Amendment Rights  

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today joined Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), and Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) to introduce legislation to clarify circumstances under which a person loses the right to receive or possess firearms based on mental illness. The legislation, The NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013, enjoys strong support from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The Senators noted that under current law certain mental incompetency adjudications are not required to be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) which is the clearinghouse for all new gun purchases.

“I’m pleased that we have been able to bring together unlikely allies from outside the building and produce a common-sense, bipartisan bill that will help keep our communities safe while protecting our Second Amendment rights,” Begich said. “I have worked side by side with both the NRA and the mental health community to ensure that this bill will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people without stigmatizing the mentally ill or taking away individual rights. I hope today’s announcement serves as a reminder that if we roll up our sleeves and work together, we can still get things done around here.”

“The NRA strongly supports this legislation as a significant effort to improve the National Instant Check System,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. “We thank Senator Begich for his support of this important bill which will take meaningful action towards keeping guns out of the hands of those who are mentally ill and pose a danger to themselves or others while simultaneously protecting the rights of America’s veterans and the Second Amendment freedoms of all law-abiding Americans.”

Begich noted the NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013 applies to individuals whose cases are determined by an adjuctive body, such as a federal court, to be:

  • an imminent danger to themselves or others;
  • found guilty but mentally ill in a criminal case;
  • was not guilty in a criminal case by reason of insanity or mental disease or defect;
  • was incompetent to stand trial in a criminal case;
  • was not guilty only by reason of lack of mental responsibility under the Uniform Code of Military Justice;
  • required involuntary inpatient treatment by a psychiatric hospital;
  • required involuntary outpatient treatment by a psychiatric hospital based on a finding that the person is an imminent danger to himself or to others; and
  • required involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital for any reason including drug use.

The Senators also noted the legislation contains provisions to ensure Second Amendment rights are returned to individuals after they have recovered from their mental illness. The legislation also does not apply to persons in a mental institution for observation or those who voluntarily admit themselves to a psychiatric hospital.

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