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July 31, 2014

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Legislature 2013:

Lawmakers tackle issue of gun violence by mentally ill

Curbing gun violence in Nevada is going to take changes in the mental health system, more money, and better reporting of potentially violent individuals, a legislative panel was told Thursday.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services heard a variety of suggestions, and Chairman Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, said it's imperative that initial contacts be made with potentially dangerous people.

Statistics presented to the committee showed Nevada had a firearm-related death rate of 13 per 100,000 residents compared with the national 9.2 rate in 2010-12.

State Health Officer Tracey Green said that was partly due to the high number of suicides.

Green said those being committed to mental health facilities will now be asked if there are weapons in the home and visits will be made to families to supply them with trigger locks.

But Clark County District Judge William Voy questioned whether these patients would be truthful.

The state is also committed to working with the volunteer National Alliance on Mental Illness to get an early notice of these potential patients. Families often contact the alliance first to seek advice.

Jones also said there is a gap of 45 days before the courts sometimes send information about potentially dangerous persons to the state.

Jones talked about the case of Eduardo Sencion who in September 2011 shot 12 people, killing four of them at the IHOP restaurant in Carson City. He said he had breakfast in the restaurant recently and only one of the original servers was still employed.

Sencion had no criminal history but had been taken into protective custody by police as part of a mental health commitment previously.

He said information of this type has to be transmitted to the state repository.

The law requires background checks of sales by licensed gun dealers but not on sales between individuals.

Jones said he and Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, are working on legislation to close many loopholes in the law.

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