Law enforcement said investigators are “continuing to look at the background of the subject to determine if any of his answers on the ATF Form 4473 were inaccurate.”
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This review may have to do with Jones’ mental health issues in 2022. A Dayton Daily News analysis found the reasons mental illness could prevent a gun purchase fall behind narrow definitions, though gun purchases are rarely denied for mental health reasons.
Gun buyers fill out Form 4473 at the point of sale. It asks applicants: “Have you ever been adjudicated as a mental defective OR have you ever been committed to a mental institution?”
If someone checks “yes,” the firearm dealer must terminate the sale. If they check “no,” the application is run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
About 25% of the NICS records are of people adjudicated mentally defective, but that accounts for less than about 4% of federal denials over the past 25 years.
“Mental illness is not an indicator for gun violence,” said Luke Russell, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Ohio.
What is a pink slip?
Meeting the threshold of being barred from buying a gun for being adjudicated mentally defective or being committed to a mental institution follows a detailed court process. And not everyone who is even involuntarily committed through a pin slip meet this threshold.
A pink slip is what law enforcement and other agencies call an application for emergency admission, usually when individuals’ mental or behavioral health represents a risk to themselves or others.
“Pink slipping” can be initiated by various kinds of law enforcement, from police to probation officers, as well as by doctors, and the patient gets transported to an emergency department.
At the emergency department, the attending physician consults a behavioral health assessment team for an evaluation, said John Lawson, assistant director of care transitions at Mental Health Recovery Board for Clark, Greene, Madison Counties. The patient undergoes a mental status exam and a lethality test.
If an individual is found to be in acute crisis where they are a danger to themselves or others, they are admitted and held voluntarily or involuntarily, Lawson said.
“If an individual is not found to be an acute crisis, they can be discharged on a safety plan and referred to an outpatient behavioral health treatment provider in the community for follow-up care,” Lawson said.
The court process
If the patient is admitted to the hospital, they can be held there for a 24-hour observation. They are later transferred to a psychiatry unit at a hospital where the hospital has three days to file an affidavit of mental illness with probate court. The court has 10 days from the date of the pink slip to have a hearing, according to Ohio revised code.
If a court finds the person named in the affidavit to be a “person with a mental illness subject to court order,” the court can have the person committed for a period not to exceed 90 days to go to an applicable hospital or facility; to a board of alcohol, drug addiction, and mental health services or services provider the board designates; or to receive private psychiatric or psychological care and treatment. The patient can be committed in either an inpatient or an outpatient setting.
“Person with a mental illness subject to court order” means a person with a mental illness who, because of the person’s illness, is considered a risk to themselves or others, according to Ohio revised code.
“An individual struggling with suicidal ideations must be assessed if they have a plan or intent to kill themselves,” said Kim Back, chief clinical officer at DeCoach Behavioral Health Urgent Care, located in Fairborn. “Some considerations for safety planning are access to lethal means, history of suicidal gestures or attempts, support network, coping skills, and other protective and risk factors.”
The court process of determining if someone is a “person with a mental illness subject to court order” is generally called civil commitment. Only after a person becomes committed would that information then be shared with the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). BCI records, such as civil commitments and competency hearings, are shared with NICS, the BCI says.
Getting a pink slip may never lead to a civil commitment.
“Many times an application for emergency admission is completed and the probate court will not be involved,” Back said. “The ER may determine the individual does not qualify for emergency admission (they are not found to be an imminent risk), the individual decides to sign-in voluntarily, or the individual is admitted and stabilized before the three business days are up, thereby the probate court is never involved.”
After the 90 days in a civil commitment is up, the process either continues, going through a continued commitment hearing, or the case gets dismissed if the person is no longer an imminent risk. A person’s commitment can be extended for up to two years, at which point the commitment gets refiled or the commitment gets dismissed.
The shooter’s pink slip incidents
A number of details have been held back from the public, including where Jones purchased the gun and what happened after Jones was pink-slipped twice last year by Fairborn police.
Jones was brought to Soin Medical Center twice in 2022 for suicidal ideation, being admitted on a pink slip from law enforcement.
According to an April police report, Jones said he was under stress from his move from Nevada to Ohio, and had been having suicidal thoughts. In May, Jones admitted to law enforcement that he had been assigned medication, but had not been taking it, and was overwhelmed by “the thought of becoming an adult.”
Kettering Health, which is the network Soin is part of, would not disclose records about what happened with Jones during those visits as the HIPAA privacy rule protects the individually identifiable health information about a decedent for 50 years after death.
Kettering Health officials said they have standardized procedures for emergency hospitalization and involuntary holds that align with Ohio law.
Additionally, local probate courts, including Greene County Probate Court, would not confirm if Jones had been under civil commitment at all, saying those records are confidential under state law.
This means it’s unclear if Jones ever had a hearing to determine his mental status or if he was committed — and if he was, whether that information was reported to the state and passed along to the federal NICS system.
Gun background checks
The FBI established NICS in 1998 following the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which was signed into law in 1993, amending the Gun Control Act of 1968. The Brady Law required Federal Firearms Licensees to request background checks on prospective firearm transferees.
The majority of the time, a NICS check only takes about a minute to process once the ATF Form 4473 is filled out, with the FBI saying NICS has an “immediate determination” rate of over 90%. Checks can be done by phone or by an e-check.
If the background check results in a federal denial, there is an appeals process if the buyer wants to challenge that determination.
Sometimes the outcome of the check is not an immediate approval or denial, but a delayed response indicating information on the ATF form matches a record searched by NICS and it requires additional research before NICS can make a final determination. If the transaction is not resolved within the allowed three-business-day timeframe, it is at the discretion of the seller whether to transfer the firearm, according to the FBI.
Some states, not including Ohio, are “point of contact” states, meaning licensed firearm dealers contact a state agency instead of NICS to initiate a background check.
Ohio law does not require unlicensed sellers to conduct background checks on buyers, but Ohio law does prohibit the sale or furnishing of guns to individuals who are prohibited from having a firearm.
Prohibitions for buying, owning a gun
Since the creation of NICS, its indices have amassed millions of records on people who are are prohibited from receiving firearms by federal or state law. The top three kinds of records making up NICS indices include illegal immigration status, adjudicated mentally defective, and certain criminal histories that resulted in a year of imprisonment, or two years or more if the crime was a misdemeanor.
As of Nov. 30, NICS has more than 14 million records in reference to illegal immigration status, nearly 7.5 million records for adjudicated mentally defective, and approximately 5.3 million records of applicable criminal histories.
Additional reasons for a denial of a gun purchase include a history of domestic violence, a protection or restraining order, dishonorable discharge, drug abuse, renounced citizenship, under indictment, and fugitive from justice.
In total, NICS has about 30.5 million records for people prohibited from purchasing a firearm, according to ATF.
Since November 1998 through Nov. 30, 2023, there have been 2,277,274 federal denials for gun purchases, according to the FBI. Of those denials, only 78,156 were due to mental health reasons.
Where to go for help
A national hotline that is available for use is the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis line, where crisis resources are provided to individuals by a trained crisis counselor.
Local resources include:
- The Mental Health Recovery Board, which serves Warren and Clinton counties, offers a 24/7 Crisis Hotline at 877-695-6333 or Crisis Text Line “4Hope” 741741.
- The Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board’s crisis lines are 1-844-4CRISIS or 1-844-427-4747.
- In Montgomery County, the Crisis Call Center can be reached at 833-580-CALL (2255), and it is operated by RI International, a mental and behavioral health services non-profit.
- The Miami Valley Warmline is 937-528-7777 and is available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- In Clark County, the crisis hotline is 937-399-9500, and in Greene County, the crisis hotline is 937-376-8701. Thrive operates a Warmline for Clark, Greene, and Madison Counties. The Warmline is a phone number individuals can call to get immediate, anonymous 24/7 support, referrals to community resources, and transfers to 988 when necessary. The number for the Warmline is (937) 662-9080.
- The Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services, which serves Darke, Miami, and Shelby counties, offers a 24-hour crisis hotline at 800-351-7347.