PROVIDENCE—On Thursday afternoon, legislators from across the state gathered to hear testimony from interested parties regarding the submission of mental health records as part of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The Behavioral Health and Firearms Safety Taskforce, led by Sen. Catherine Cool Rumsey (Dist. 34—Exeter, Richmond, Hopkinton, West Greenwich) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (Dist. 74—Jamestown, Middletown), was created earlier this year in order to review the state’s policies regarding firearm rights in the wake of tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which the lives of 28 schoolchildren and teachers were taken by 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
“I think that the issues we face with choosing to comply with NICS and not complying with NICS, and how we comply, is a very strict balancing test,” said task force member Sen. Frank Lombardi (Dist. 26—Cranston). That is the crux of what this [task force] has to do, we have to look at it as narrowly as possible.”
“We have to weigh the issue of balancing public safety with individual rights,” he added.
Currently, Rhode Island requires NICS checks for firearm purchases, but does not stipulate any submission of substance abuse or mental health records, which a number of other states have agreed to do. The task force heard testimony from a number of parties cautioning the release of such records,even if it does not entail actual medical or personal information but simply a prompt which would prohibit firearms purchase from an individual whose mental health background would prevent it.
For the whole story, see today's Narragansett Times.