Mental Health Services Take Center Stage

Mental Health Services Take Center Stage

Ken Cuccinelli and Janet Oleszak Respond

Q.: What legislation, if any, do you think the General Assembly should review as a result of the Virginia Tech shootings?

CUCCINELLI: Since I arrived in the State Senate five years ago, I have been advocating for, and submitting bills to allow easier commitment of those that are mentally ill. For the last two years, along with Democrat Sen. Henry Marsh from Richmond, I have submitted legislation to open up an entirely new avenue of commitment and treatment for certain mentally ill individuals in the justice system. I believe the General Assembly will now take a much more serious look at moving forward on these types of legislation.

Some of your questions below focus on gun control legislation. Obviously there are appropriate legal limits to any kind of behavior, but it’s important to remember that criminals (however sane or not) do not obey gun control laws. By definition, they are law breakers. The most success against gun violence ever achieved in the history of the Commonwealth was in the 1990s, when we began vigorously punishing guns crimes with mandatory minimum penalties. Taking those criminals off the street for long periods of time is the only long-term strategy that has worked to reduce gun violence in Virginia.

OLESZEK: This is just another example of how Ken Cuccinelli is out of the mainstream of Fairfax County. I, like many others, believe in the Second Amendment, but Ken Cuccinelli’s support of guns goes way too far. He voted to allow guns in airports after Sept. 11th, and has even voted to allow guns on day care center property and in school parking lots. As it applies to Virginia Tech, we had the answer. In 2003 a bill failed (SB939) in the General Assembly that would have prevented a person who was voluntarily admitted to a mental health center and diagnosed as an imminent danger to themselves or others from buying a gun. Ken Cuccinelli voted against this bill and I support it.

Q.: Gov. Tim Kaine's recent executive order expanded the reasons that residents could be denied a gun to include all people ordered to undergo mental health treatment. The order clarifies that there will be no distinction between those who undergo outpatient or inpatient treatment. Do you agree with this decision?

CUCCINELLI: My understanding of Gov. Kaine’s EO is that it instructs all relevant Virginia agencies to submit to the CCRE (the database from which firearms background checks are done) names of those individuals that have been found mentally ill and either a threat to themselves or others, but who have not been confined (i.e., “committed”) to an inpatient facility. I do support this EO. I do not expect any resistance during the next General Assembly session to codifying Gov. Kaine’s Executive Order.

OLESZEK: Although I am a strong advocate for patient’s rights and medical privacy, I do agree with Gov. Kaine’s recent executive order.

Q.: Currently, citizens can purchase guns from individuals and/or at gun shows in Virginia without a background check. Do you believe this law should be changed?

CUCCINELLI: No, I do not. Most of the individuals selling guns at gun shows are registered federal firearms licensees (FFLs) and are required to do background checks for all their gun sales. Requiring the very small number of private gun sales between non-FFL individuals to do background checks is synonymous to requiring sales taxes to be charged at yard sales; there’s really no way to enforce such a concept. Such a law relies completely on the participation of the person that you’re trying to “catch.” Interestingly, the largest study tracking illegal guns used in crimes was done by the Justice Department under Bill Clinton. The result? Less than 1 percent of all guns used in crimes were bought at gun shows, and the study did not determine how many of those were bought legally. As the 30-year gun ban in Washington, D.C., has shown, the tighter we make gun control restrictions, the greater the power of criminals over law-abiding citizens, because the criminals are the only people with guns.

OLESZEK: I do support closing the “gun show loophole.” The reason is simple: a Department of Justice report in 1999 confirmed that gun shows provide a large market where criminals can shop for firearms anonymously.

Q.: Should the ban on firearms on college campuses be lifted?

CUCCINELLI: I believe that law-abiding non-students such as faculty and staff, should not have their constitutional right to carry a weapon taken away; unfortunately, this is the current law. Many Virginians do not realize that concealed carry permit (“CCP”) holders must be over the age of 21 and are required to have taken gun safety courses. I think the ban on non-students should be lifted, just as I think airline pilots should be able to carry a weapon on the plane they are flying if they so choose. Prior to the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the last time we had a shooting spree at a Virginia University was at Appalachian State in 2002. That horrific shooting spree was cut short by a student who ran to his car, grabbed his own gun, and confronted and stopped the shooter.

Furthermore, I think that private universities should be able to regulate their own students’ gun rights based on their contracts with the students, and I also believe that the Boards of Visitors of our public universities should be able to set the policies governing their students.

OLESZEK: I believe that the ban imposed by individual colleges and universities foster a safe learning environment.

Q.: Should local jurisdictions in Virginia — including counties and cities — be given more control over firearm policies?

CUCCINELLI: This is a debate that we had and settled five years ago when then-Gov. Mark Warner signed the bill that established uniformity for most of our firearm regulations across the entire Commonwealth. Local jurisdictions can make their own rules in courts and jails and so forth, but without some degree of uniformity between localities, someone obeying the law in his/her home county can cross the county line and not even know that they are breaking a local law in the second county. This game of “gotcha” with responsible, law-abiding gun owners was largely ended when Gov. Warner signed the aforementioned bill.

OLESZEK: Yes, local jurisdictions should be given more power to decide whether they want to allow guns in public places such as libraries and government buildings. Each region of Virginia should be able to decide for themselves the best ways to protect our children and families.