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Jones Co. Sheriff: Gun Permits Should Require Mental Health Records
By Katie Wiedemann, Reporter
JONES COUNTY, Iowa - Earlier this week, investigators said Aaron Scott's bad break-up likely triggered a shootout with a Maquoketa police officer on April, 1. Prosecutors say Scott fired nearly 20 shots from an assault weapon, wounding Police Sergeant Brendan Zeimet. Scott later shot and killed himself.
Prosecutors say Scott had a history of mental health problems, but had a legal gun permit. On Wednesday, the Jones County Sheriff explained why.
In 2007, When Aaron Scott was threatening suicide at his Wyoming home, Greg Graver was an investigator for the Sheriff's Office.
Graver says instead of shooting himself, Scott accidentally shot a friend. Deputies took Scott in to get mental health help.
Graver is now the Jones County Sheriff and said, "Scott was taken over by deputies on that evening and he was committed for a mental evaluation. But a mere evaluation is not a disqualification. "
But Scott was never charged in that shooting, meaning his criminal record was clean.
Then, in 2011 Scott turned in an application for a permit to carry a gun.
The application asks if the applicant has ever been committed to a mental health facility. Scott checked "no."
The Sheriff's Department had no way to check that.
Graver said, "What we always hear is it's a medical record and it's covered by HIPPA and that we can't have that."
With no criminal record and no way to prove mental health issues, the Sheriff at the time had to grant Scott the permit under Iowa Law.
"If you can not show that they've had mental health treatment at a mental health facility, then you can not revoke (or deny) them," said Graver.
Tim Flynn, a supporter of Iowa's "shall issue" status, says he doesn't want to grant permits to carry to people who have mental illness. But he says it's walking a fine line.
Flynn said, "If the treatment is done and he is supposedly cured, why would you take away any of his rights? Whether it's the right to vote, right to firearms. Or anything else. "
Sheriff Graver argues people who want to legally carry a gun should have to give up the right to mental health privacy.
"If we want protection from that, society is going to have to decide we want to give up some of that freedom and provide Sheriffs with that information we need to make a good decision." said Graver. " I don't really see how you can have both. "
Sergeant Brendan Zeimet, who was wounded in that shootout with Scott, returned to duty this week. Prosecutors say his actions in that shootout were justified.