The PJ Tatler

Beau Biden: Expand Definition of Who's Mentally Unfit to Own a Gun

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said the next step in gun-control is going to be expanding the definition of those deemed mentally unfit to own a gun.

“One of the things that we’re going to be focusing on in Delaware, including pursuing a background — universal background check which we passed in one — in one House, in the House of Representatives in our state legislature two weeks ago. Moving forward to the state Senate,” Biden said Friday on MSNBC.

“But the other piece that we’re going to be introducing next week is another part of our package. And that is expanding and broadening the category of folks who have a mental health issue that we believe should prohibit them from possessing a firearm,” he added.

The mental health definition has been fuzzy in gun bills introduced on the federal level, but usually has boiled down to whether a person is adjudicated mentally ill. Much of the debate on the Hill has been about whether a doctor can violate patient confidentiality in reporting a person to be listed in the gun-check database, and whether that would discourage those afflicted by mental illness from seeking treatment.

Biden called adjudication “a very high standard, basically being involuntarily committed to a mental institution.”

“We’re going to introduce legislation next week that says that if you are believed to be a risk to yourself or to others by your health care professional, that that health care professional would have an obligation to report that fact to a police agency who then would initiate a process to — to make sure that you do not possess a firearm,” said the vice president’s son.

“You would have due process rights and you have a judicial proceeding. But to make sure that those people who are mentally ill, that doctors believe shouldn’t be in possession of a weapon, don’t have them,” Biden continued. “Only 1300 people in 2010, for instance, were prohibited from possessing firearms because they were adjudicated mentally ill. This will broaden that category of people. We’ll have due process built into it. It will be constitutional and I think save lives, ultimately.”

Demonstrating his dad’s penchant for punny slips of the tongue, Biden later said he’d “jumped the gun” in talking about the new legislation.

“I’ve been privileged to watch my father answer the president’s charge in coming up with a comprehensive set of measures that protect kids ultimately and our families around this country,” Biden said of the veep. “I’ve watched my dad late into the night on the phone with the mothers and fathers, the survivors of — of this, of these tragedies in Connecticut and listened to them. Mostly in the listening mode.”