David Katz, who recently went on a shooting rampage at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida on Sunday, was legally armed at the time of the shooting, USA Today reports.
The 24-year-old shooter was able to legally obtain his two handguns in his home state of Maryland – a state with some of the strictest gun laws – despite his history of mental illness. In a ranking of states with the strictest guns regulations, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Violence gave Maryland an A- rating. In addition to complying with federal laws, Maryland also prohibits the sale of guns to anyone with a history of violence and/or anyone who has voluntarily spent a month or so as an inpatient in a mental health facility.
Even though his court records reveal that Katz had spent some time at a mental health institute as a teenager and later attended a treatment program for a few months, he was still not disqualified from owning a gun.
According to Susan Sorenson, a social policy professor at the University of Pennsylvania, “We set a high bar for removing someone’s gun in the U.S., and getting mental health treatment doesn’t meet that bar. People get disappointed and angry and often that results in a tragedy. But those reactions aren’t unique to people with disorders, they’re unique to being human.”
Meanwhile, the director of the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, Daniel Webster, believes that digging into Katz’s past could possibly provide important clues to Florida investigators. “The best predictor of future violence is prior violence,” Webster said. Webster does caution, however, that “being treated for a mental health condition is a poor predictor for future acts of violence. The vast majority of people being treated for mental illness aren’t a threat.”
In fact, Webster claims that associating mental health issues with extreme acts of violence, thereby restricting certain goods or activities, can potentially prevent people with mental illnesses from seeking help altogether.
The nation once again looks to Florida with grief and heavy hearts. The massacre in Jacksonville is yet another devastating indictment of this country's inability to keep our kids safe. https://t.co/NNw88rVWR2— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) August 26, 2018
The managing attorney for the Giffords Law Center, Allison Anderman, noted that, “Most mentally ill people are not only not violent or a threat, but they’re statistically more likely to be victims of violent crime.”
However, Anderman also suggests that, “If Maryland allowed law enforcement discretion when issuing handgun licenses, they might have been able to prevent this individual from buying a handgun based on his psychiatric record if they believed that he would not be someone who would use a gun safely.”