ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) - Alabama takes steps to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill. A new law goes into effect in September that will stop the sales of firearms to those who have been involuntarily committed.
The original law, we're told, came about roughly a decade ago following the ambush slaying of two Athens police officers. A man with a long history of mental issues assassinated Sgt. Larry Russell and Officer Tony Mims as they answered a call in 2004. The original law allowed police to testify at commitment hearings regarding the use or threat of weapons and resulted in a number of people being added to the federal registry that would keep them from buying a gun.
"That was amended in 2013 to include evidence from anyone, not just law enforcement," according to Limestone County Probate Judge Charles Woodroof. He added, "It didn't restrict it to law enforcement but evidence in open court regarding firearms, deadly weapons or dangerous instruments as those items are defined under alabama criminal law."
Now, Judge Woodroof says the law is amended again. As of September first, anyone who is involuntary committed will be automatically added to the national register so they will not be able to legally buy a firearm.
"More reporting's going to happen. And if something can be done, if that leads to avoiding someone getting hurt in any way, shape or form, sure it's a good thing," Woodroff says.
It's important to remember, though, that even when Alabama law changes again on September the first the only transactions that will be affected are those involving a licensed gun dealer. Sales between two individuals, even though one of them might have been judged to be completely insane, are not currently governed by law. And those people will still be able to later petition the courts to have their gun ownership rights restored.