Limited mental health information provided to gun backround check system

Surveillance video shows Connor Sturgeon during the mass shooting at Old National Bank
Surveillance video shows Connor Sturgeon during the mass shooting at Old National Bank(WAVE)
Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 4:12 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The gunman’s family in Monday’s mass shooting said he suffered from mental health issues. But he was able to buy a gun from a store six days before shooting 13 people, killing five of them.

Being diagnosed with a mental illness or prescribed medication to treat mental illness does not get reported to authorities. So someone with a mental condition can buy a gun from a licensed dealer and pass the background check.

“He purchased the weapon legally from one of the local dealerships,” said Interim Louisville Police Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel.

The gunman bought his rifle just days before shooting 13 people.

“He purchased the weapon used in this tragic incident on April the fourth,” said Gwinn-Villaroel.

Police didn’t identify the store, but access to the gun may be have been easy. A Google search for gun shops showed six within ten minutes of the gunman’s home. A licensed gun dealer would have required him to fill out a background check form which asks one question about mental health. It asks whether a judge had ever ruled him mentally defective, or sent to a mental hospital.

“Only in those circumstances does a person become prohibited under federal law from possessing guns and only in those circumstances is the person going to be identified by the background check system,” said Lindsay Nichols, policy director for Giffords Law Center.

The gunman’s parents said Tuesday their son had mental health challenges, but Nichols said those challenges don’t get reported to the background check system. She said states can beef up their laws. Waiting periods and red flag laws have had success at reducing gun deaths.

“The states have the authority to set their own standards,” said Nichols.

But lawmakers have to make the choice to tighten gun laws.

The gunman could still have bought a rifle if he would have failed the background check for mental health issues.

Private sellers are not required to conduct them, which undermines the system as it exists right now.