CNN host Alisyn Camerota argued Wednesday for gun salesmen to ask mental health-related questions to those trying to purchase a firearm.
Camerota was joined by former Aurora, Colorado, police chief Daniel Oates and CNN analyst Asha Rangappa and discussed with them how she thought requiring gun salesmen to ask those questions would have “weeded out” the suspect in Monday’s shooting in Boulder, Colorado. (RELATED: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Says We Need More Gun Control To Restrict ‘Weapons of Mass Death’ And ‘Destruction’)
“Why don’t we go to gun shop owners and say, do you think that this 21-year-old who comes in and wants an AR-15-style weapon, do you think he looks like he’s going hunting with this weapon?” Camerota began. “Did you ask him, by the way, do you ever think that people are chasing you? Do you ever hear voices say people are coming for you? Do they ever ask questions like that because this guy it sounds like, according to his family, would have answered yes.”
Coates responded that we don’t ask those questions in our society and we don’t demand those selling guns to ask those questions. He said the perspective in America is “there’s a right to buy a weapon absent some compelling and obvious circumstances.” He added that red flag laws were the latest effort in the country to stop people who have given an indication they aren’t mentally capable of possessing a weapon from acquiring one, but that the laws vary from state to state.
“How onerous would it be to have a gun shop owner just say, by the way, are you hearing voices? Do you think people are chasing you? Do you think everybody’s watching you? It would have weeded out, possibly, this guy,” Camerota asked Rangappa.
Rangappa answered Camerota by saying she agreed with her, “but based on the law,” asking those questions would still not prevent that individual from being able to purchase the firearm. She then said “you have to actually be committed to a mental institution or adjudicated by a court as being mentally defective in order to be legally disqualified from purchasing a firearm.”
“An eyeball test wouldn’t work, and I don’t even think that a psychologist having evaluated someone would reach that level,” Rangappa continued. “It’s a very high bar, and I think it gets to why friends and family are aware of these kinds of red flags more than, say. a gun shop seller, and they’re going to be aware if somebody is unstable and also in possession of firearms.”
She concluded by saying the Boulder shooter’s family knew he potentially had “paranoid thoughts” and that he possessed weapons, but it’s “unclear” what they did about it.
Following the Boulder grocery store shooting, Democrats in Congress have renewed their calls for new gun control legislation. The House of Representatives passed two gun control bills on Mar. 11, prior to the shooting, and President Joe Biden has called on the Senate to pass them as well, in addition to a ban on “assault weapons.” Any legislation would require 60 votes to pass, which seems unlikely considering Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday he would not support the two House bills.