Former NCIS Agent Claims Gun Reporting 'Loophole' Exists

If someone is mentally ill, there are a lot of things that can mean. After all, someone with mild anxiety or depression can certainly suffer, but they don’t represent a real problem for society. They’re good, decent people who are wouldn’t harm a living soul.

Then, unfortunately, there are those with far more pronounced issues. Some of them are a threat to themselves and no one else, but others are a threat to anyone and everyone.

In the civilian world, we have a process to deal with people like that.

However, a former NCIS agent claims there’s a loophole in the Navy’s mental health system that may allow some mentally ill service members to purchase and keep firearms.

A former San Diego agent with Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is blowing the whistle on what some people say is a potentially deadly firearm loophole involving active-duty members of the military. For more than a year, Team 10 investigative reporter Jennifer Kastner has pressed local military officials for answers about its mentally ill patients.

The expressed concern is that this alleged loophole could contribute to suicides or even mass shootings. Naval Medical Center San Diego (Balboa Hospital) is San Diego’s biggest military medical facility. Balboa Hospital spokespersons tell 10News that the hospital is following federal law. However, state law is different and some people believe that the difference could have fatal consequences.

“I hope people see this. I hope people are upset. I hope people are worried,” says Joel Mullen, the newly retired NCIS agent. Mullen is finally going on-camera with 10News, now that he’s no longer working for federal law enforcement. 10News first met Mullen last year, when he wanted to open up about what he calls a major loophole in the military mental health system that some people believe could put weapons in the hands of suicidal or homicidal people.

Here’s the thing, though. State law doesn’t actually apply on a military base.

While most military bases observe state law, they’re not actually required to. In fact, when San Diego had a Naval Hospital Corps “A” School on the premises, they reportedly had a bar on site that would serve people aged 18 or over, opting to ignore the state-mandated drinking age of 21. They had reasons, namely to try and discourage sailors from crossing the border and going to Tijuana where they could get in far more trouble.

It was the Navy’s call, not the state of California.

So, you see, it doesn’t matter what state law says about mental health reporting because state law doesn’t apply.

Further, there’s little evidence that the law in question actually accomplishes anything. From the report:

If you’re a civilian in California and you’ve been admitted to a hospital on an involuntary mental health hold (commonly known as a “5150”), California law generally bans you from owning firearms for five years, although you can later petition state court to restore your access.

According to California law, the hospital has to report your information to the California Department of Justice using a portal called the Mental Health Reporting System. The California Department of Justice is then required to give your information to the F.B.I.’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS. That’s the federal database that gun sellers can access to verify whether potential buyers are eligible to purchase guns.

The problem is that sailors are a transient population. They may be in California for a few years, then ship out for another state. Such a reporting requirement may cause difficulty for perfectly healthy people–some people become suicidal short-term for a host of reasons, only to recover later–and get in the way of them exercising their Second Amendment rights.

In this case, Navy personnel.

While California is trying to play this like it’s an important step in combatting mass shootings, it’s not. The state has the toughest gun control laws in the country, including this reporting requirement. It’s also had more mass shootings since 1982 than another other state, almost twice what the next highest state has.

Kind of looks like their efforts aren’t working.

Further, none of those appear to have been perpetrated by members of the United States Navy, so lay off the sailors. They don’t represent a risk to anyone. Those that do are treated until they’re not considered a risk anymore.

As it should be.

It’s just too bad the rest of the state can’t seem to do that.