Friday, Aug 22, 2014
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Audit: Hernando complied with mental database for gun purchases

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BROOKSVILLE - A state audit of Florida's Firearm Purchase Program shows the Hernando County Clerk has complied with requirements to send information about the mentally ill to a database in a timely manner but at least 10 other clerks have not.

Clerks are required to send information to the database about individuals who are found mentally defective or have been committed to a mental institution. That database is accessed by gun store owners to determine if an individual is eligible to buy a firearm.

The audit was conducted as a follow up to a federal grant for criminal background checks received by Florida in June 2012.

The database, called the Mentally Defective Database, works much like the criminal background checks that gun stores are required to do through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Hernando County submits mental health court orders instantaneiously every month to the database, according to Clerk of Court Don Barbee.

"We have an electronic link, and take anyone involuntarily committed and submit that information directly to FDLE," he said. "We have 30 days to get the information in, and we do it monthly electronically in order to alleviate any chance of that happening.

"As long as we're notified of the involuntary commitment, then we would absolutely process it and do what we need to do," Barbee said. "I have someone who handles this specific report for me without fail, because I understand the importance of the report."

Other counties were not as compliant.

Among records entered after February 2007 the audit found:

? 11,307 took more than a month to be submitted

? 3,711 took three years or longer to be submitted

? 325 took between two and three years to submit

? 335 took between one and two years to submit

? 1,449 took between one month and a year to submit

? 5,487 records were submitted within a month as required

Between July 2011 and April 2013, 10 counties did no submit any records of people who were adjudicated mentally deficient or committed by court to a mental institution.

While there were records for the historical project time period added to the database for eight of the 10 counties, two had no such records entered at all between July 2011 and April 2013. According to FDLE, those counties are Baker, Bradford, Dixie, Gilchrist, Gulf, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty, Taylor, and Washington.

"If those lawful authorities are not giving information in a timely fashion to Florida Department of Law Enforcement, that sounds like a communication problem," said local firearms dealer, Peter Resnick. "Mentally incompetent people should not own firearms."

Resnick said he has never had a problem with mentally deficient clientele, but he has refused to sell guns to some customers for other reasons.

"I've had clientele I've refused to provide a firearm to that have passed the background check, but through other information, learned the person probably shouldn't have a gun," Resnick said.

Resnick is extra cautious because he's sold a gun to someone who used it in a crime.

In 2007, he sold a .45-caliber revolver to Thomas J. Hall, 51, a 15-year veteran of the Tampa Police Department. Hall accused Jason Mullis, 35, of having an affair with his wife and used the gun to kill him.

"Face it: If the sheriff's office makes 30 calls, and never arrests anybody for domestic abuse, and if they don't have any other issues in their life, they're still qualified gun buyers," Resnick said. "If there's no arrest, that's it."

How many firearms purchases were approved, if any, that wouldn't have been otherwise if the records were submitted on time, is unknown, according to FDLE. That's because Florida law prohibits the department from keeping gun registrations of those who make firearms purchases for longer than two days.

FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the department agrees with the findings, and will continue to work with clerks to ensure timely records keeping.

mreinig@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5271

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