Law enforcement wants Legislature to take up mental health, gun violence

Law enforcement wants Legislature to take up mental health, gun violence
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek (left) and Judge Jay Quam want Minnesota lawmakers to take on the intersection of gun violence and mental illness.

A coalition led by Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek demanded in a capitol press conference Wednesday that lawmakers take up reform on the intersection of the mentally ill and "extreme gun violence" in Minnesota.

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Joined by other high-ranking law enforcement officials and representatives from the courts, Stanek laid out several policy issues he says need to be overhauled, including ensuring police have timely access to mental health records, strengthening the state's background check system, and improving Minnesota's troubled civil commitment process.

"We have a severe access problem," said Stanek. "The mentally ill should never have access to guns."

Stanek emphasized the importance of a properly functioning mental health treatment system, noting a pattern of untreated mental illness in high-profile mass shootings.

"When treated, the mentally ill are no more likely to become violent than the general population," he said.

Hennepin County Judge Jay Quam, who presides over civil commitment court, further detailed how the current system leaves mentally ill offenders to languish in jail for months without treatment at "great cost to all of us."

An overhaul of the system could eliminate redundancy and move the mentally ill through the process and into treatment much more efficiently, said Quam.

"It doesn't have to be this way," he said.

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