Deaths may prompt law change
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
A loophole in Alabama's communication with the FBI may have been responsible for putting a gun in the hands of an allegedly unstable man.
Judged five times to be a serious threat to himself and others, Farron Barksdale, 29, of Decatur, incorrectly answered no to a very important question and successfully passed a federal background check to purchase a SKS-39 rifle and ammunition at Larry's Pistol and Pawn in Huntsville.
With that same rifle, Barksdale allegedly shot and killed two Athens police officers that responded to a 911 call he had placed from his mother's Athens residence.
His lawyers recently released a statement saying Barksdale believed the officers to be aliens.
Barksdale reportedly completed the standard Form-4473 required to purchase firearms, which asks the potential buyer 10 yes or no questions, including questions regarding citizenship, arrests and mental state, along with standard identification questions.
Barksdale's form later showed he answered no to a question asking if he had ever been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
Although federal law prohibits people who are mentally unfit or insane from purchasing firearms, Barksdale slipped through the cracks of the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) because Alabama does not supply the FBI with the names of those residents judged to be mentally unfit by the probate court.
Since the NICS found no criminal history on the applicant, Barksdale purchased the rifle and left with it the same day.
Until legislation is passed making it mandatory for the state to provide this information to the NICS, retailers and law enforcement must depend on applicants to be truthful in admitting mental illness.
"I believe Limestone County Rep. Tommy Carter (D-Elkmont) has already started the process of introducing such a bill," Sen. Tommy Ed Roberts said. "I think it should go through without controversy because it would only cover those individuals who have been involuntarily committed. There is simply no reason not to make that information public, especially if it can be an added safeguard in preventing another such incident. That's what I would hope and pray for."
Hartselle Police Chief Ron Merkh was surprised to discover that the state doesn't supply the FBI with involuntary commitment information.
"I didn't know that's how it worked, but I think the burden of proof in identifying those individuals who don't need to possess firearms lies with all involved agencies," Merkh said.
There is no waiting period for rifle purchases in Alabama once the applicant has been approved by NICS, a nearly instantaneous process.
Nationally, no background check is required when buying firearms from an individual or at a gun show.