State bill would let mental health specialists block possibly dangerous individuals from buying guns

Therapists say bill could make people avoid help

DENVER - Colorado lawmakers begin debate this week on proposed gun control legislation.

While there will be significant discussion about ammunition limits and background checks, a mental health component will soon be introduced.

State Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, will introduce legislation to keep guns away from the mentally ill.

The bill would allow mental health workers to flag someone who may be dangerous with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

The CBI could then place an immediate hold, blocking that individual from being able to buy a gun. The legislation is modeled after a similar law in New York. The gun purchase-hold could be temporary.    

"The whole purpose of this bill is to put…some delay in the system," said McCann. "That can be enough (the individual) to say, 'Wait a minute, you know. This is going to be hard. Maybe I don't want to do this,'" she said.

Yet, some psychiatrists feel the tools are already in place.

If someone could pose a danger, they can immediately be hospitalized.

There is concern among mental health professionals that the legislation could deter people who need treatment from getting help -- knowing their weapon could be taken away.

 "If they came into treatment, because you would have to disclose ahead of time, the limits of confidentiality, they would be much less likely to be open with you about their dangerousness and use of guns," said Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

McCann knows her bill may be revised, but is confident an effective measure will be drafted.

Republicans have not seen McCann’s bill, but GOP leaders tell 7NEWS they feel this is an important component of the discussion.