The day after this week’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Army Secretary John McHugh said the gunman lived off post and was therefore not required to register his weapon with the military.
McHugh told senators yesterday, “We try to do everything we can to encourage soldiers to register their personal weapons, even when they live off post. We are not legally able to compel them to register weapons when they reside off post.”
Soon after, during House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) press conference, a reporter noted McHugh’s comments and asked the House leader whether this is an issue Congress should address. Boehner replied:
“Well, there’s no question that those with mental health issues should be prevented from owning weapons or being able to purchase weapons. In the so-called ‘doc fix’ that passed here, there was funding for a pilot project dealing with mental health issues and weapons from both the Senate side and the House side. There are two programs that are being funded in there. The bill went to the president yesterday. This issue we need to continue to look at to find a way to keep weapons out of the hands of people who should not have them.”
The “doc fix” bill related to Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians, but it’s always a pretty big bill with plenty of unrelated provisions. This year, there was quite a bit of controversy surrounding how the bill passed – House GOP leaders played a fast one on their own members and conservatives were right to be annoyed – but I never heard a word about funding for a pilot project dealing with mental health issues and firearms.
And that’s surprising. Usually, any federal measure related in any way to gun ownership is the subject of considerable scrutiny. But there was the House Speaker yesterday, assuring the public in the wake of another mass shooting that lawmakers just acted on a policy related to gun violence and mental health.
It’s enough to make one wonder: does the provision Boehner referenced actually exist?
Roll Call reports this morning that according to the lawmaker who wrote the measure, no, it doesn’t.
Speaker John A. Boehner Thursday morning said that Congress had recently passed a provision to address whether people with mental health issues have access to weapons, but the measure’s Republican author said his bill actually does nothing of the sort.Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., told CQ-Roll Call that despite Boehner’s assertion, his measure to incentivize outpatient treatment for mental health issues has nothing to do with keeping guns out of the hands of the severely mentally ill.
“Not our bill, no. It’s a whole different issue,” Murphy told Roll Call. “I think he confused that. When he said that it dealt with it, I think he confused that.”
I checked the text of the legislation itself and it includes no references to gun, weapons, or firearms.
Murphy went on to say, “What this provision that I had in there allows in states is an outpatient treatment for patients who have a risk of past incarceration or past multiple hospitalizations where they were a safety risk, to work to say, ‘We need to get you back in treatment, get your life back together.’ That does not necessarily preclude or affect anything about a person’s ability to own a gun, unless they also have a history of being put in against their will.”
When Boehner says Congress just approved a project “dealing with mental health issues and weapons,” he appears to be wrong.