Mental health records could be more accessible in firearm purchases

Senators advanced a bill March 29 that would make mental health records accessible when conducting background checks for firearm purchases.

LB512, introduced by Imperial Sen. Mark Christensen, would remove a maximum five-year retention requirement for mental health records at the state Department of Health and Human Services. Records would include whether a person is disqualified from purchasing or possessing a handgun and would be made available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The Nebraska State Patrol could access the system when determining a person’s eligibility to own a gun.

Additionally, the bill would enable a person who has been barred from buying or possessing a gun for mental health reasons to resubmit an application if he or she no longer suffers from the disqualifying condition. An individual could request a mental health board hearing at which the board would consider:
• circumstances surrounding the subject’s mental health commitment;
• the subject’s record, including mental health and criminal history records; and
• the subject’s reputation, developed through character witness statements, testimony or other character evidence.

This bill provides a necessary piece of information that could prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands, Christensen said, while it provides an opportunity for others to own a firearm if they are no longer considered a threat to society.

A proposed Judiciary Committee amendment outlined the process to appeal a denial of requested relief and also would require the courts to send an order to remove a subject’s firearm-related disability to HHS and the state patrol within 30 days.

Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh offered an amendment to the committee amendment that was originally introduced as LB138. The provisions, adopted 35-0, would recognize valid handgun permits issued by previous states of new Nebraska residents.

The committee amendment was adopted 39-0 and the bill advanced from general file on a 38-0 vote.

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