Rhode Island submits 234 names to FBI firearms database

By: Rebecca Turco, The Associated Press
Email: rturco@abc6.com

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Island District Court judges have submitted the names of 234 residents who have been deemed a danger to either themselves or others to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System as of Nov. 20. 
This is the first year that the identities of those considered mentally incompetent are being sent to the national background-check system that screens residents applying to purchase firearms. 
“If we can eliminate that one element, we can contribute to preventing people who should not have a firearm in their possession from actually acquiring one,” explained Senior Deputy Minority Leader Mike Chippendale, who co-sponsored the bill and served on the joint task force. 
The names sent to the database are limited to those a judge has involuntarily committed, related to violence or criminal behavior. There is also a relief board for appeals.

“It’s really just a limited number of people who actually are subjected to this and not a whole vast array of people simply seeking mental health services,” said Steven Brown, head of the Rhode Island ACLU.

That’s thanks in part to his lobbying, as well as the lobbying of guns’ rights and other groups.

“It’s dangerous to equate mental illness with violence,” he told ABC6 News. “There is only a very, very small percentage of mentally ill individuals who actually engage in violence.”

State lawmakers drafted the bill after the Sandy Hook shooting as a way to address so-called federal loopholes surrounding mental illness and background checks. Now, Rhode Island has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and Brown is encouraging other states to consider tightening theirs. “I think everybody benefits from the final product.”

Governor Raimondo named three people to the relief board on Nov. 25., much to the ire of Chippendale, who believes that should have been done sooner. A spokesperson for the governor said she was tied down with hundreds of other appointments this year.

The other two members of the board are representatives of the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developments, Disabilities and Hospitals, and attorney general’s office. So far, there have not been any appeals brought forward.

The records submitted do not include confidential medical information, just the person’s name, race and gender.

© WLNE-TV, AP 2015