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Gun Control Advocates Say Cornyn’s Federal Mental Health Gun Legislation Won’t Work

Ryan E. Poppe
U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-TX

The U.S. Senate’s Number 2 in charge, Texas Senator John Cornyn, visited with community groups in Austin on Monday to sell his plan for gun control through more mental health testing.  But some gun control advocates are saying Cornyn’s plan actually would make guns more available to people with mental illness.

Cornyn’s enhanced background check bill is being endorsed by pro-gun groups like the NRA as well as mental health advocates like the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  Cornyn says it starts with a judge’s assessment of whether or not someone with past mental health issues is well enough to own a gun.

“My bill is designed to make sure that no one can be denied their constitutional rights without an opportunity to appear in court in front of a judge, for a judge to consider that based on evidence,” Cornyn explained.

The bill would increase pre-trial mental health screenings, money for mental health court pilot programs, and strengthen existing background checks by providing states financial incentive to share access to their criminal databanks and mental health registry.

But Anna Khadi with the gun control group Everytown USA believes the legislation actually makes it easy for people with mental illness to purchase guns.

“It would narrow the universe of people who are prohibited from buying guns and possessing guns, so unless people are involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, immediately after they are released [from jail], they could go and buy a gun,” Khadi said.

But Cornyn’s office says before that was to happen a judge would have to sign an order, following treatment that says a person is mentally fit enough to own a gun.