Due apparently to a lack of information sharing between Alabama and federal law enforcement authorities, hundreds if not thousands of people who are barred by law from buying hand guns, rifles and shotguns may have done so with scarcely a problem. According to a recent news report, Alabama failed to report thousands of individuals who are barred from firearms possession to the federal government. This situation could have allowed persons living in cities such as Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Decatur and Prattville to buy firearms contrary to that allowed by law.
As a Birmingham criminal defense lawyer, I help many people across Alabama who have been accused of a crime. Not all of these individuals are guilty, and all are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This latest news article points up the confusion that is sometimes caused by the lack of communication between state and federal agencies.
According to reports, Federal authorities and gun control advocates believe that literally thousands of potentially unstable mental patients who have been released from state institutions now have easy access to guns because of Alabama's narrowly defined reporting law.
In one instance, a former West Point graduate who served 18 years in the U.S. Army walked into a local Bass Pro Shop and bought a shotgun, pistol and rifle. Police reports indicate that the instant background check run by store personnel in Spanish Fort failed to flag the customer as a person barred from buying a gun. The reason for this, say law enforcement authorities, is due to the fact that Alabama reports just a small fraction of mental health commitments to a national database.
The 42-year-old military veteran, David Otto Gluth, Jr., was previously treated for post-traumatic stress disorder at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Additionally, a psychiatrist who treated him at the AltaPointe Health System in Mobile, AL, stated that Gluth might also suffer from bipolar disorder with psychotic features and other problems. In 2008, he was reportedly involuntarily committed to Searcy Hospital in Mount Vernon, which made him ineligible under federal law to buy or own a gun.
Police were made aware of the potentially mentally unstable individual after he allegedly got into an argument with another customer in the store, talking about his needing a steady hand to shoot someone. A spokesman for the tore said he was confident that the company followed the law.
According to gun control advocates, if a store employee observes strange and threatening behavior from a customer it is a good indication that the gun should not be sold. This was apparently borne when Fairhope police responded to complaints of an armed man walking around the Rock Creek subdivision. They arrested Gluth and booked him on a disorderly conduct charge.
Gun loophole: Alabama fails to report thousands who are barred from firearms possession, AL.com, January 17, 2010