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Lawmakers should focus on mentally ill, says NRA head

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NRA president
National Rifle Association president David Keene addressed a crowd at The Conservative Case for Criminal Justice Reform forum at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul, Minn. Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

The president of the National Rifle Association says he would like lawmakers to pay more attention to treatment for violent, mentally ill people rather than restrict gun rights.

NRA president David Keene attended a conference on the criminal justice system today in St. Paul.

Only a small percentage of people with mental illness act out violently, Keene said, but too often people who show signs of being dangerous to themselves or others don't get treated.

"And then when you look at what's happened, the Newtown shooting and all this, almost all of these people that are involved in these things are mentally schizophrenic and they've been spotted by people," Keene said. "Nobody's done anything about it."

Keene is also a member and co-founder of Right On Crime, a Texas-based, conservative think tank that focuses on the criminal justice system. Keene opposes loosening restrictions on the type of crime-gun information federal law enforcement agencies can release to the public. He also says it is untrue that the NRA influenced the government to ban gun-related research performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We didn't say they couldn't do research. We said they couldn't turn these agencies into lobbying agencies.  Now under federal law they can't do that anyway," Keene said. "But the federal government often needs more explicit directions. They can do all the research they want.  They can't become advocacy agencies. And they shouldn't."

Some congressional Democrats say changes to gun laws being considered by the Obama administration should promote more research on deaths and injury from firearms.

• Infographic: Implementation of gun laws
• ATF report: Firearms tracing in Minnesota