List shouldn't be public

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2007

Sometimes people read the same words and come away with different conclusions. That's what happened in this week's Associate Press story (Clarion, July 18) on whether Alaska should close an illegal gun sales loophole we have in our law.

A few readers came away with the mistaken view that I've proposed to publicly "list" names of people with mental illnesses. No one with a medical problem should have their name made public, and the AP story was mistaken in suggesting otherwise.

The problem I flagged is a loophole in Alaska law, similar to the one that allowed the shooter in the Virginia Tech case to illegally purchase the weapons he used in last spring's mass killing.

Under federal law, gun dealers cannot sell weapons to a person a court has ruled is an immediate "danger to himself or the public." The Virginia shooter was deemed a "public danger" by the courts. However, that information was not relayed to the confidential national database that gun sellers access to determine whether they are allowed to make a gun sale. Virginia has since corrected that problem. The question is whether we should, too.

We should work with law enforcement officials and mental health experts to find a way to protect the public. But we should also ensure the privacy of those battling illness. If we find it's possible to do both, we should fix a loophole closed by Virginia's Governor two weeks too late.

Rep. Les Gara

Anchorage



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