Md. leaders call for mandatory mental health reporting

Neal Augenstein,

WASHINGTON – Maryland could soon require mental health professionals to give police the name of patients who would pose danger if granted a gun permit.

It’s the idea that Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy and former Prince George’s County prosecutor Glenn Ivey want to make law.

“The timing for this is absolutely right,” says McCarthy, who along with Ivey, are recommending several steps to curb what they call “the human carnage attributable to gun violence.”

Ivey served as State’s Attorney from 2002 to 2010.

The duo is offering suggestions that would usurp current doctor-patient confidentiality practices, in an effort to lessen the chances of a mentally ill person being granted a gun permit.

“Right now, the background check that’s done for individuals who apply for a gun is all self-reported,” says McCarthy.

“If it comes to their attention that a person, they believe, poses a danger, based on conversations during a therapy session, we want this information to go to the licensing authority,” says McCarthy.

The information would be given to state or local police, whichever serves as the licensing agency for gun permits.

While McCarthy understands therapy sessions are confidential, and “we do not want to stand in the way of people seeking mental health assistance,” he says mandatory reporting is not unprecedented.

Doctors and others are required to report child abuse.

“Information of this type needs to get in the hands of the licensing authorities so that we will know when guns are put on the streets, these are individuals who can have these weapons safely in our community,” says McCarthy.

Ivey concurs.

“I do think a lot of mental health providers will be open to sharing information on a very limited and confidential basis,” Ivey said.

McCarthy believes it’s possible to develop procedures and mechanisms for protecting the mandatory report to prevent abuses.

“It would be maintained in a confidential data base, where disclosure of that information would be a crime in and of itself, and that information would be solely for the purposes of making an evaluation as to who could get a gun permit.”

The prosecutors say their suggestion would allow a reported person the ability to appeal and challenge information in the data base.

In addition to the mental health restrictions, in an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post, McCarthy and Ivey call for closing the gun show loophole to the Brady gun law.

They also want to increase mandatory penalties for criminals convicted of carrying and using guns in the commission of a violent crime.

They would also ban armor-piercing bullets and all forms of assault weapons, and limit the magazine capacity of all firearms to 10 rounds.

On the issue of school safety, Ivey and McCarthy openly disagree with the notion of armed officers or school personnel.

“I reject out of hand the suggestion putting armed guards is ultimately going to make our schools safer,” McCarthy says.

“More guns in school is not a good idea,” says Ivey. “I’d rather see less or no guns in schools.”

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