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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Indiana Law - Indiana one of states featured in NYT article today on guns and the mentally ill

The lengthy Sunday NY Times front-page, lead story today continues on to fill two full interior pages. Reported by Michael Luo and Mike McIntire, the story is headed "When the Right to Bear Arms Includes the Mentally Ill." The story examines:

... the uncertain legal territory at the intersection of guns and mental illness. Examining it is difficult, because of privacy laws governing mental health and the limited availability of information on firearm ownership. But The New York Times obtained court and police records from more than 1,000 cases around the country in which guns were seized in mental-health-related episodes.

A systematic review of these cases — from cities and counties in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee — underscores how easy it is for people with serious mental health problems to have guns.

The ILB has pulled out the parts of the story relating to Indiana:
Even in Indiana, one of the few states that have expanded the power of law enforcement to hold on to guns seized from people who are mentally ill, the examination revealed a significant loophole: there is nothing preventing them from going out and buying new guns.

The state’s seizure law does not address the question, and as a result, records from gun confiscation cases are not entered into the federal background check database that dealers must consult when making sales, according to officials from the Indiana Supreme Court. * * *

It was the shock of a potentially avoidable tragedy that pushed Indiana lawmakers to act. Reports of gunfire brought Officer Timothy Laird to Indianapolis’s south side one night in August 2004. Kenneth C. Anderson, a schizophrenic man who the police later learned had just killed his mother in her home, was stalking the block with an SKS assault rifle and two handguns. As Officer Laird stepped from his patrol car, he was fatally shot. Four other officers were wounded before one of them shot and killed Mr. Anderson.

At the beginning of that year, the police had seized nine guns from Mr. Anderson after being called to his home by paramedics because he was being combative. Deemed delusional and dangerous, he was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. He was not, however, committed, and when he sought the return of his guns, police officials concluded that they had no legal grounds to keep them.

Several months after Officer Laird’s death, the Indiana legislature passed its seizure bill, giving the police explicit authority to search for and confiscate guns from people who are considered dangerous or who are mentally ill and off their medication. The police can keep the guns, upon court approval, for five years. * * *

It is impossible to know just how many gun owners have serious mental health issues. But an examination of gun seizure records in Connecticut and Indiana, where the police have been granted greater leeway to confiscate firearms, offers perhaps the best sense of just how frequently gun ownership and mental instability mix. Officials with the Connecticut court system have collected records on more than 700 gun seizure cases since the law was enacted in 1999. That probably represents a partial count at best, however, because court officials did not make a concerted effort to ensure that all cases were reported to them until this year, after the Newtown shooting.

The Times analyzed this year’s cases in Connecticut and found that slightly more than half involved threats of suicide; 34 percent involved drugs or alcohol; and 42 percent clearly involved psychosis or some other serious mental health issue, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or clinical depression. Just under 30 percent of the mental health cases also involved drugs or alcohol.

The results were similar in Marion County, Ind., which includes Indianapolis. In 2012, the police seized 67 guns from 30 people, according to court records. Documents in 40 percent of the cases mentioned some sort of mental illness; a quarter of those cases also involved substance abuse.

In one case in April, residents of Carlyle Place in Indianapolis flagged down a police cruiser because one of their neighbors, Michael Fishburn, 54, was screaming at cars and had pointed a handgun at a woman, according to a court affidavit. The day before, he had been strutting around his yard making rooster noises, they said. The police took Mr. Fishburn to the hospital and learned that he had been receiving mental health treatment there for the previous 10 years. They also discovered that he had a lifetime permit to carry a handgun. A judge ordered the police to retain Mr. Fishburn’s pistol, as well as a shotgun, for five years.

ILB: An Indiana case that the NYT story does not mention is that of Robert Redington. As Abby Tonsing reported in the Aug. 7th Bloomington Herald-Times:
The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a Monroe County court order that will allow Bloomington police to keep the 51 shotguns, rifles and pistols they confiscated from an Indianapolis man last fall.

In a split 2-1 decision Tuesday, two judges determined Robert Redington to be dangerous as defined by state law and that police can retain his guns.

Police encountered Redington peering through a range finder to watch people and activity at Kilroy’s Sports Bar from the third floor of a parking garage across the street the night of Aug. 4, 2012. Redington told police he had been traveling from Indianapolis to Bloomington on weekends and had been in search of missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer, who spent time at Kilroy’s Sports Bar in the hours before her June 3, 2011, disappearance. Redington also said he wanted to avenge Spierer.

In the appeal, Redington v. State, Redington challenged the constitutionality of IC 35-47-14-1 as applied to him. The Court of Appeals panel affirmed the trial court by a vote of 2-1. Redington petitioned the Supreme Court for transfer, but the Court denied the petition, by a vote of 5-0, on Nov. 7th.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 22, 2013 06:20 PM
Posted to Indiana Law