Mental Health Expert Voices Concern over Current Firearm Background Checks
WESLACO – The FBI said there were 203,086 background checks requested for the sale of firearms this Black Friday – that’s a new record.
A local mental health expert said the current scope of those background checks in the state of Texas must be changed to better protect those suffering from mental illnesses and the public at large.
The mental health professional said the current law allows people diagnosed with a mental illness to purchase a gun, even if they have a history of self-inflicted violence.
“I am a firm believer in the second amendment,” Rick Tovar said.
Tovar is a psychiatric nurse who specializes in schizophrenia, treating patients with mental illness for 20 years.
He told CHANNEL 5 NEWS he was surprised to learn a former patient suffering from schizophrenia with a history of suicidal actions was allowed to purchase a firearm.
"Currently, we don't have a system to prevent those kinds of purchases. Somebody diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can just go into a gun store and purchase a firearm," Tovar explained.
Tovar said as a mental health specialist he is unable to block a firearm purchase unless the patient is threatening their own life or the life of others.
He explained the background check potential gun owners are required to pass is criminal rather than psychiatric.
He believes that’s potentially dangerous for one reason.
“If you’re diagnosed with schizophrenia and you’re on medications. It doesn't take away your symptoms 100 percent. If we are lucky we can control most of them,” Tovar explained.
Tovar said he wants to see the state create a policy that takes into account a person’s mental state before allowing them to purchase a firearm. Especially, those people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
“I can deny a sale to anybody for any reason,” Brian Guerra told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.
Guerra is a gun store owner. He said currently a person’s mental health may cause them to fail the FBI’s background check only if a court has decided that person is unfit to own a firearm.
However, Guerra explained, he evaluates every potential customer before placing a gun in their hand.
“And If I’m asking them those questions through the correct customer service, I can then determine whether the person is buying the gun for them or if they are going to do something wrong with the gun,” Guerra told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.
Tovar said he wants to ask all other gun store owners to do the same.
He said he’s already written a letter to his former congressman and wants to do whatever he can to protect his patients and the public.