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Bonneville Sheriff: Less gun control, more mental health

By By Caleb James, Reporter
Published On: Jan 16 2013 10:44:59 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 16 2013 11:56:50 PM CST

Caleb James reports.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

President Obama's sweeping proposals regarding various measures of gun control are becoming a hot topic with law enforcement and mental health professionals in eastern Idaho.

On Wednesday, Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde almost exactly echoed the sentiments of Madison County Sheriff Roy Klingler who on Tuesday called the gun control measures, "out of control." 

"We're not dealing with the gun itself, it's the person who uses the gun," said Wilde. 

Wilde said a ban on any firearm is a violation of the second amendment, but said special attention must be paid to mental healthcare. 

"What needs to be handled is the issue," said Wilde. "The issue if we look at all of the cases in the last few years, they all have mental health overtones."

Wilde said less attention aimed at a gun ban could be used to address the country's mental healthcare system. Wilde also said a mental health professional should feel safe enough to report a threat of violence. 

In addition to introducing a proposal for sweeping gun reform in his address to the nation on Wednesday, President Obama touched on the question of doctor-patient confidentiality.

"We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence," said Obama. 

At Pearl Health Clinic in Idaho Falls, mental health counselor Quinn Thibodeau said it is already a paramount part of his profession's code of ethics to report threats.

"It has always been there, it's just people forget about it until something like this happens," said Thibodeau. 

What worries Thibodeau is new attention on mental health professionals possibly leading to over-reporting. He said a patient's behavior should be reported to law enforcement only when there are grounds to do so.

"If they seem like they're going to do something drastic based on the context of what they're saying," said Thibodeau. 

Thibodeau said the professional code of ethics requires a viable threat by a patient to be reported to the intended victim of that threat, and law enforcement.  

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