Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), one of the “fiercest Second Amendment defenders on Capitol Hill, supports another look at gun laws designed to block firearm sales to the mentally ill, his office said Thursday,” The Hill reports.
Congress passed such a law in 2007, following the shooting deaths of 32 students and teachers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Yet the suspect in this month’s Arizona shooting reportedly had little trouble buying a handgun in November, even despite earlier concerns about disturbing behavior and habitual drug use.
The tragic episode — in which a federal judge was killed and a congresswoman critically injured — has prompted gun reformers on and off Capitol Hill to call for additional scrutiny of the effectiveness of the 2007 law. On Thursday, Coburn’s office said the Oklahoma Republican agrees.
"He is open to revisiting the law," Coburn spokesman John Hart wrote in an e-mail. "His goal is to make sure we have a way to ensure that people who are truly mentally ill and are a threat to themselves or others are not allowed to buy a firearm.”
"However," Hart added, "he won’t support any measure that prohibits any American from buying or possessing a firearm without cause."
In 1968, Congress enacted a law blocking gun sales to anyone deemed by a judge to be a "mental defective." Licensed gun dealers are currently required to consult the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to see if potential buyers fit that category — or any other prohibiting them from buying firearms.
The 2007 gun-reform law neither altered the "mental defective" designation nor expanded the categories of barred gun purchasers. Instead, it provided financial incentives to states to submit more information to NICS.