Warning signs often blocked by privacy laws - WSMV News 4

Warning signs often blocked by privacy laws

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Mental health files that may be helpful to prevent tragedies are locked away because of privacy laws. (WSMV) Mental health files that may be helpful to prevent tragedies are locked away because of privacy laws. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Information that might prevent a tragedy is locked in a file room in the Davidson County courthouse.

In Florida, Nikolas Cruz opened fire at a high school, killing 17 people.

His caregivers said they told police he was depressed and that he had held a gun to his mother's head. His guardian said when she told police, they did not act.

Davidson County General Sessions Judge Bill Higgins heard two cases last week that prompted him to sound a warning. In one, a man unloaded his gun into a car.

"Another one where the defendant, according to his parents, and siblings, had a lot of weapons and had threatened them," Higgins said.

He ordered both defendants to be locked up for 15 days in a mental health facility until a doctor released them. He expected the guns to be taken for safekeeping.

"I found out the right thing to do was order those guns confiscated," Higgins said.

But there's a roadblock.

Mental health information is considered private and is protected.

The papers go into a file in a locked file room. The police and sheriff never know about the involuntary mental health committal.

The clerk’s office sends the information to the TBI and FBI. That prevents people who have been involuntarily committed from buying a new firearm or getting a carry permit. If they already have guns, no one takes them away.

"We're governed by statutes, and the statute doesn't give us that authority to take guns or anything like that," said Joseph Day, a spokesman for the Davidson County Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

Higgins has asked the clerk's office to forward the information to local police. The clerk's office is asking for a legal opinion.

"I can't confiscate the weapons, but I can see if the police department is notified, or the sheriff, or the district attorney, and that's what I've tried to do," Higgins said.

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