State of guns, mental health frustrates both sides - KCTV5

GUNS IN THE HEARTLAND

State of guns, mental health frustrates both sides

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Guns and mental health are tough topics to discuss no matter where people fall on the gun debate. (KCTV5) Guns and mental health are tough topics to discuss no matter where people fall on the gun debate. (KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Guns and mental health are tough topics to discuss no matter where people fall on the gun debate.

The fact is there are people who shouldn't have guns but are able to get them anyway.

In June 2012, Colby Sue Weathers walked into her family home in Wellington, MO, and shot and killed her father as he sat at the dining room table.

Weathers' mother had begged Odessa Gun and Pawn not to sell a gun to her mentally ill daughter. Weathers suffered from Schizophrenia, was suicidal and abused alcohol and drugs.

 Two hours later, the Odessa Gun and Pawn sold Weathers the gun, saying she'd passed a background check.

One hour later, Weathers' father was dead at the hands of his daughter.

"Should we just be handing these things out like candy?" Loren Stanton with the Brady Campaign asked.

The Brady Campaign is backing Weathers' mother, Janet Delana, in a lawsuit against Odessa Gun and Pawn.

The group wants background checks and safety programs expanded in an effort to help curb gun violence.

"It's almost impossible, mental health experts say, to predict when a person has a serious mental health issue and might do something dangerous with a gun. It's a nice idea, but where do you draw that line?" Stanton said.

"I can't control what everybody does, but I'm gonna control what happens in my store," Charlie Rice said.

Rice owns CR Guns in Independence. Background check or not, Rice says he won't sell a gun if he senses something is off. He equates it to being a responsible bartender, cutting someone off who's had too much to drink.

But, not every gun dealer is like Rice, and that's where things can get tricky.

So, who can't buy a gun? Under federal law, the list is long. It includes anyone who's been declared by a court as a "mental defective," or someone who's been committed to a mental institution.

While it wouldn't have helped in Weathers' case, the National Rifle Association says there is a breakdown in getting those records into the federal background check system.

"We know there are more than a dozen states that submit fewer than a hundred records or have submitted fewer than a hundred records since that database has been in existence for almost 20 years," the NRA said.

There are two federal bills working their way through Congress that would address the problem. But, not everyone falls into those categories, and many of them have guns.

"We go out on mental health crisis situations like one out of every five calls," said Sgt. Sean Hess with the Kansas City Police Department.

Hess says more than a third of Kansas City police officers are trained in crisis intervention and taught to handle those suffering from mental illness, many of whom may be armed.

"Just being in a mental health crisis is scary enough on its own. But, if you throw a weapon into it, it adds fuel to the fire," Hess said.

Hess says the trained officers concentrate on de-escalating the situations as best they can, being aware of history, talking to family members and knowing what, if any, medications are involved.

Hess says many of the calls arise because people, for whatever reason, whether it's money or side effects, are not taking their medications.

That was the case with Colby Weathers who is now being successfully treated for her Schizophrenia.

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