Coroner recommends mental health tests for gun owners
By Andrew Drummond
October 18, 2010
PROSPECTIVE gun owners would have to pass a mental health test before being granted a firearms licence under recommendations submitted by a New South Wales coroner.
After inquiring into the self-inflicted shooting death of a man during a confrontation with police in Sydney, Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon found the licensed gun owner had posed a "very great danger" to many unsuspecting people.
The 22-year-old man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, drew a Glock pistol when two police officers asked him to stop near Eastwood Mall in Sydney's northwest on March 10, 2008.
The officers exchanged fire with the man before he shot himself in the head, Mr MacMahon said in his findings, handed down today.
Despite emergency surgery, the man died in hospital two days later.
An inquest, in November 2009 and March 2010, heard police evidence that the man intended to kill numerous people at random on the day he visited Eastwood Mall.
He was carrying six full magazines of ammunition at the time of his death, with more ammunition and a reloader found in his vehicle.
"He had a veritable war chest," Mr MacMahon said.
On the day of his death, Mr MacMahon found, the man was likely to have been experiencing a "psychotic episode and that he was acting out of a delusion or hallucination".
"What he could or would have done in Eastwood Mall is open to speculation. However, the situation was one of very great danger in which the lives of the many people present were at considerable risk," he said.
Although not clinically diagnosed, the inquest was told the man's parents thought he was experiencing mental health issues, having become "isolated and secretive".
Among three recommendations to NSW Police Minister Michael Daley, Mr MacMahon asked for greater scrutiny during the granting of firearms licences.
He asked that "applicants undergo a mental health assessment by a general medical practitioner, or other appropriate professional, so as to ensure that they are not suffering from any previously undiagnosed mental health condition that would render the applicant unsuitable for the holding of such a licence".
Furthermore, Mr MacMahon asked, gun licences be shown when collecting firearms from storage facilities and that such facilities keep detailed records of when items are removed and returned and by whom.
On the day of the shooting, Mr MacMahon found, the two police officers acted appropriately.
"The officers' use of their firearm in the circumstances was appropriate," he said.
"The circumstances faced by officers ... (were) life threatening."
Coroner recommends mental health tests for gun owners | News.com.au
^^Rather unfortunate that this man's family saw disturbing signs yet did not think to inform any authorities. And more to the point, how did the police fire at him and he was still on his feet and able to shoot himself?
Now on the face of it, this may not seem such a subversive idea....BUT:
I'd be a little dubious about testing as one would only have to run across an "Anti" doctor once, and that single doctor's submission would ban you from the sport for life.
Especially considering that most professional Psychological Associations in this country (including the medico-political group, Doctors Reform Society*) have a strong objection to weapons and the arming of citizens. To many psychologists a weapon is a variable that is best left out of people's lives, thus their duty of care may make them feel the need to approve less shooters if the plan were to be implemented.
IMO this would just be just placing an extra barrier, an extra hurdle to jump through, say you had an ordinary morning then went for your test and you had a bit of an attitude, bad luck the shrink didn’t like you.
In any case, on the licence application there is the series of medical questions re your history- if you don't answer honestly you'll be in deep sh*t if they find out as its a legal statutory declaration.
With handgun clubs - they already have a responsibility to report you should they consider you unfit to hold a licence/possess handguns.
There are sufficient mechanisms in place currently both active and passive.
On another related point - many firearms owners are frightened to get AVO's (Apprehended Violence Orders) against an aggressor in case the person they obtain one against seeks one against them.
Even if you get an AVO against someone, say a person who has publically threatened to do you harm, you will be required to surrender your firearms because the person that you are seeking protection from may attack you and in defending yourself you would possibly do that person an injury. The subject of the AVO would likewise have been disarmed. However kitchen knives, garden spades and the woodheap axe will not be confiscated, nor the handy hatchet for splitting the kindling.
(*Doctors Reform Society firearm policy: 15.5.1 The DRS recognises the relationship guns in society have with violence and accidents. The DRS supports national uniform gun legislation to minimise access to and the number of guns in Australia. )