Revoking gun licenses from mentally ill gun-owners

A police chief must prove a gun-owner's mental health had changed to revoke a license

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – FBI agents aren’t ruling out mental illness as a factor to the Virginia shooting.

Agents are still investigating the shooting incident in Alexandria, Virginia by James Hodgkinson. Hodgkinson  shot Congressman Steve Scalise and four others Wednesday during a practice baseball game Wednesday morning. Hodgkinson was killed in a shootout with police. Agents still haven’t figured out what the gunman’s motives were.

Under Massachusetts law, you can’t have a gun if you’ve been confined to a hospital or institution for mental illness.

22News asked Northampton attorney James Winston what the provisions are for taking someone’s gun license away, if they have been showing any signs of having a mental illness. Winston told 22News a police chief would have to ask a judge to revoke the license, with proof their mental health had changed.

“There’s no clear guidelines because the facts and circumstances can be different in a particular case,” says Winston. “Did they make a threat? Did they exhibit some sort of volatile behavior?”

If so, the gun would be taken away immediately.

The gun-owner could re-apply after a psychiatrist testifies they’re no longer mentally ill. A psychiatrist can break patient confidentiality, if they think their gun-owning patient is mentally ill.

Winston says, “We want to promote people to speak to their therapist about all of their issues, so that’s why we regard the confidentiality so high.”

Hodgkinson was charged with firing a weapon more than ten years ago after hitting a 19-year-old man with a shotgun. The charges were dismissed, which meant he could keep his gun license.