Police talk guns and mental health

Deputy Willacy County J.R. Villarreal

A legislator is saying if someone is mentally unstable the police should have the right to seize the weapon and not give it back.

It TMs a topic always up for debate, gun control in Texas. Some law enforcement officers say they feel powerless, by law they must give back the guns to people with mental health issues.

"You can go to a gun dealer, sell these guns, he can run a DPS check and find out if this guy is a criminal or not but that TMs it, as far as it goes, it TMs none of his business what the mental condition is of that person," Deputy Willacy County J.R. Villarreal said.

That TMs a problem, especially when they are attempting to take their lives, Lyford Police Chief Paul Campbell said.

According to the Texas Privacy Act a gun seller cannot check if a person buying a weapon has a mental condition or history.

Just last month the body of missing Lyford woman, Maria Guadalupe Hernandez, was found.

Her family told Action 4 News she was mentally unstable and had just been released from a state facility.

Police told Action 4 News it happened just days before she took her own life when she purchased a 9 millimeter gun.

That TMs where the loophole lies.

"We didn TMt know until approximate three days later that she had suffered from a previous mental illness. It really changes the scope of our investigation because we learned that not only did she purchase a weapon, she suffered from mental illness," Campbell said.

To keep this from happening again Campbell says the Privacy Act must change.

"I think that TMs a beginning, to include a clearinghouse without violating a person TMs rights of privacy, to include mental health stability in addition to criminal history," Campbell said.

These lawmen both agree it TMs a start and a clearinghouse would be good for gun owners or to find out if a person has a mental illness before they sell them a weapon.

Villarreal said that when a person does commit a crime like suicide with a weapon they are often asked the question, ~Why didn TMt someone check their background or why didn TMt someone check if they were mentally unstable? TM He added that there is nothing right now to assist gun shops on mental background checks.

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