Prosecutor seeks change concerning mentally ill and gun rights

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Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013 11:31 pm

EPHRATA – Grant County Prosecutor Angus Lee is lobbying for change to how mentally ill people have access to guns.

He proposed legislation to state representatives asking for a chance in a law governing the restoration of the right to have firearms be people diagnosed with mental illness.

“In an effort to reduce criminal misuse of firearms I am proposing a simple amendment to RCW 9.41.047(3) that I anticipate will have universal support, will reduce or prevent future gun violence, and will have little or no fiscal impact,” Lee stated.

Lee suggests the state should set a mandatory minimum waiting period of 12 months after a person is involuntarily committed to a mental institution. He would also like the state to increase the scrutiny for evaluating a person interned for mental illness before restoring their right to have guns.

“The reason the current law fails to adequately protect the public is because (1) it provides no minimum time after the involuntary commitment and completion of treatment that must pass before firearm rights can be restored, and (2) the once involuntarily committed person is required to establish current mental health by only a mere preponderance of the evidence,” Lee stated.

Lee said his proposal is an easy, economical correction to state laws regarding possession of guns.

“There really is no reason not to pass this amendment. Whether the action we take saves one life or many more, it matters,” stated Lee. “This legislation will reduce the criminal misuse of firearms by putting the focus of our laws where it belongs, and that is on keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill.”

On Feb. 4, Lee stated he learned that Manweller and Warnick are preparing to sponsor a bill addressing his suggestions.

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