Tuesday, June 17, 2014

David Jolly supports more funding for background checks on ex-felons and those with mental health issues

Posted By on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 3:28 PM

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Although he says he's taken some heat for it, most non-NRA members in Pinellas County probably weren't even aware that late last month, Congressman David Jolly supported an amendment sponsored by Representative Mike Thompson (D-California) that would increase funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by $19.5 million. The funds would be appropriated toward grant money for states, in order to improve reporting to the national database, which is designed to keep guns out of the hands of individuals with felony convictions and certain mental health issues.

"We have a system right now, where we can identify people who shouldn't have a gun. Does it need to be improved? Yes, it needs to be dramatically improved," Jolly told the Tiger Bay crowd at the Orange Blossom Catering building in St. Petersburg on Monday afternoon on why he voted for the measure, which had plenty of bipartisan support in getting through the House on a  260 to 145 vote. It now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers failed 14 months ago to advance a compromise to expand background checks. Given the House-passed measure simply offers a modest boost to the existing program, it would appear unlikely that the Senate would reject it.

The NRA told the Huffington Post that they are "neutral" on the issue. The vote came less than a week after the shooting spree by 22-year-old Eliot Rodger in Isla Vista, California, that left six people dead and once again spurred a call for broader federal gun legislation, with the emphasis on mental health. A West Palm Bach Libertarian blogger named Karl Dickey took a shot at Jolly for his vote, writing on the Examiner's website that "Just a few months ago, Jolly was sworn into his elective office taking the oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, yet has already begun to discredit his oath by voting against the Second Amendment."

"I do believe in the Second Amendment is a fundamental right," Jolly said on Monday. "But I don't believe it's beyond the reach of regulation, and I believe it's appropriate to look at regulations and ultimately keep the guns out of the hands of criminals." But he also acknowledged that he had "concerns" on how a person's mental health background is protected, and spoke of distributing those records and what that might mean for civil liberties.

According to Mother Jones magazine, a report from the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety released last month reported that the number of mental health records collected from states in NICS has tripled to nearly three and a half million since 2011 — and that as a result, a growing number of mentally ill people have been stopped from purchasing firearms through licensed dealers.

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