By Ed Runyan
Ohio has modified the rules regarding who can carry a concealed weapon six times since the state’s concealed-carry law was enacted in 2004 — evidence that questions about gun safety are far from resolved, a speaker at Friday’s daylong 33rd Annual Probate Practices Seminar said.
One issue is what criteria should be used to prevent an individual with mental illness from getting a firearm, said Atty. Jonathan R. Fulkerson of the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
The law says someone found by a court to be mentally ill or involuntarily committed to a mental hospital cannot get a concealed- carry permit. Such people are placed on a confidential list turned over to the state and federal governments.
“When this law came out, there was real blowback from mental-health advocates,” Fulkerson told a large crowd at Squaw Creek Country Club.
Many said the law was wrong because it stigmatized individuals suffering from mental illness. “In 2004, in my personal opinion, that argument got a fair amount of traction,” but there are relatively few who support that position today, he said.
“The call today is ... we need to do more to keep people who have mental illness ... away from firearms.”
The United States continued to have mass shootings after the 2004 law went into effect, some of them involving people with mental illness, such as the April 2007 mass killing at Virginia Tech that killed 27 students and five faculty members. The shooter, Seung Hui Cho, also killed himself.
It caused officials to study whether enough was being done to identify individuals whose mental illness might lead to violence.
Ohio may need to broaden its definition of who shouldn’t get a concealed-carry license, he said.
“There’s been a lot of talk about requiring physicians, psychologists, other [health profesionals] to report ... certain types of medications that a person is taking if they own firearms.”
Fulkerson said the tough thing is to decide how to define, in the future, who should be added to the 30,000-strong list.
“Is the dividing line whether the person is seeking treatment, is it that they’re taking medication, is it something we see to the professional’s judgment as to whether someone is a danger?
“The fundamental problem is, you just can’t predict human behavior to the degree that you can say, ‘That person is going to get a gun tomorrow and shoot up the school.’”
Fulkerson’s talk meshed well with one given just afterward by Phillip J. Resnick, psychiatry professor at Case Western Reserve University who has served as consultant in high-profile mass-murder cases involving Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczinski and others.
Resnick talked at length about Cho, who was diagnosed in eighth grade with major depression and talked about mass killings as a youngster. He also was committed to a hospital as suicidal while at Virginia Tech.
Resnick, whose talk was called “Mass Murder in America,” detailed Cho’s isolation and behavior in a particular class at Virginia Tech in which he repeatedly wrote about characters with a desire to murder.
In Cho’s case, there were numerous warnings that he was dangerous, but officials failed to take action, Resnick said.