Justice Urges Judges to Comply with Law on Mental Health, Guns

More stringent requirements kicked in this year to "immediately" report the mental- health designations to Illinois State Police

By Michael Tarm
|  Thursday, May 9, 2013  |  Updated 8:07 PM CDT
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Justice Urges Judges to Comply with Law on Mental Health, Guns

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Illinois' chief justice is urging lower-court judges to comply with laws mandating they promptly notify state police after deeming someone mentally unsound, telling them compliance is all the more critical amid gun control debates and in the wake of "gun-related tragedies."

Thomas Kilbride, the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, made those points in a memorandum this week sent to all 935 circuit and associate judges. The Associated Press obtained copies Thursday from State Sen. Dan Kotowski's office and the Supreme Court's communications' office.

The memo, dated May 7, comes as a federal court's June 9 deadline looms for Illinois to adopt legislation allowing for public possession of weapons. It also follows the December slayings of 20 children and six adults in a Newtown, Conn., school, which reignited a national debate about gun laws.

"This issue has received heightened scrutiny in light of recent gun-related tragedies and the current concealed carry debate," Kilbride wrote. He does not refer to any specific shooting.

Kilbride reminded judges that more stringent requirements kicked in this year to "immediately" report the mental- health designations to Illinois State Police, who rule out those individuals for Firearm Owner's Identification cards. The cards are required to purchase weapons in Illinois.

Police had complained for years about lax compliance by judges, leading to the amendment to the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code. The changes took effect Jan. 1, 2013.

Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat who advocated for the amendment, praised Kilbride for going out of his way to bring judges' attention to their obligations.

"We can all agree that people who have been found to be a danger to themselves and others should not have guns or, even worse, be carrying loaded guns in public," Kotowski said in a Thursday statement.

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