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05.30.09 “MENTAL HEALTH” BILL POSTPONED

HB 2853, the bill that would force Oregon into compliance with the NRA/ Brady Campaign supported, federal law, was NOT heard on Friday and has been postponed until Monday.

As you probably know, the legislative website does not reflect the current status of the bill. It still shows the original language, however, as of Friday, we had received our 7th set of “gut and stuff” amendments.

Aside from the dangers of passing on sensitive records to the gun-hating Obama administration, this bill comes with another giant liability.

OFF has heard for years from people who were unjustifiably denied firearms purchases because of faulty criminal records. OFF has had numerous meetings with the State Police ID unit in an effort to correct this problem and progress has been made. But now we have a whole new problem.

Now the State Police are requesting a list of people who are prohibited from buying a firearm because of a “mental health” issue.

We have attempted to determine exactly what would happen to a person who was denied based on incorrect  “mental health” records.  The answers have not been very reassuring.

In response to our questions, a member of Legislative Counsel, the people who craft the laws, sent this note to Representative Sara Gelser, the only member of the committee to have openly opposed the bill so far:

I’ve taken a quick look at federal law and the remedy appears to be the same in the mental health context as it is in the criminal context. Under federal law, there exists a procedure for a person to correct erroneous information in the federal database. See 18 USC 925A and 28 CFR 25.10. Depending on the circumstances, the person can petition the state “point of contact” (ie. the State Police), the agency that originated the document in question, the FBI or a court to correct the erroneous information.

Given that under the bill, as currently amended, the State Police will only have access to the fact that you have been considered a “mental defective” but they will not have any other information, it seems likely that a person falsely denied because of incorrect mental health records would now find themselves having to go to court or the “Psychiatric Review Board” to start the process to correct the records and be allowed to buy a firearm.  Clearly, a person unjustly denied under these circumstances faces an unreasonable hurdle just because Oregon decided that we had to comply with more NRA sponsored gun control.

There is still time to kill this bill or add protections for people falsely denied.  A sample message follows:

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Dear Representative,

The current “Brady background check ” system often prevents legitimate firearms’ purchases because of faulty criminal history records. I believe that adding “mental health” records to the system can only cause more problems, especially since the intent is to keep those records as private as possible, making it difficult or impossible for the State Police to clear a person falsely accused of being a “mental defective.”

HB 2853 has the potential to deny legitimate firearms purchases and has no safeguards for people falsely branded as “mental defectives.”

I would urge you to vote no on this bill, but at the very least ask that you include some safeguards for persons denied as a result  of faulty records.

Yours,
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