James Holmes’ psychiatric care opens new questions into background checks

Soon after James Holmes was taken into custody in connection with the theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., authorities announced that Holmes’ only encounter with police was in conjunction with a traffic violation, allowing him to pass the criminal background checks required to purchase firearms. But new reports claiming that Holmes was being treated by a psychiatrist open new questions into gun control and background checks.

Court documents filed by Holmes’ defense team claim that Homes was undergoing treatment by Dr. Lynne Fenton, medical director of the University of Colorado’s student mental health services.

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Federal law prohibits sales of firearms to “individuals who have been adjudicated as mentally ill or have been committed to a mental institution.” Neither of these scenarios seems to fit Holmes’ case, however.

Word that a notebook containing references to a shooting had been sent by Holmes to Fenton leaked to the media earlier this week. Defense attorneys have claimed that the leak could jeopardize Holmes’ right to a fair trial. “The government’s disclosure of this confidential and privileged information has placed Mr. Holmes’ constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial by an impartial jury at serious jeopardy,” the defense wrote in its motion.

A medical ethicist interviewed by KTSM News in El Paso, Texas, disputes the defense team’s assertion and suggests that any doctor-patient privilege is nullified once a crime has been committed.

Public sentiment on Twitter certainly doesn’t weigh in Holmes’ favor regardless of his mental condition.

The idea that mental illness as a defense is somehow proof of racism is, sadly, still going strong.

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