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Gun Ownership In Gray Area When Mental Health Questioned

Franklin County Jail

Federal and state laws are definitive about who can buy guns and get a concealed carry permit. But when a gun owner’s mental health is called into question the rules aren’t so clear.

The man accused of shooting a Columbus Police officer, last weekend, was known by friends and family to have guns.

Lincoln Rutledge’s recent erratic behavior worried them. The court ordered a mental health assessment. But the 44 year old could not be found. He was in Missouri.   

Rolla Police Sergeant Frank Hawkins found Rutledge. Hawkins said Rutledge seemed “lucid.” Hawkins told WOSU he didn’t see any guns, and he said he didn’t ask if Rutledge had any. Hawkins said he could have, but he said Rutledge seemed "normal" and did not cause red flags. 

To be clear, Hawkins was not carrying out the Franklin County court-ordered mental health assessment, rather he completed a wellness check on Rutledge. 

Franklin County Magistrate Robert Morris, who oversees the probate court's mental illness department, said even when court orders are served, gun owners may still be able to keep their weapons. 

"That's going to be up to the discretion of the officer at the time," Morris said. "I do know of instances in the past where they do confiscate guns."

Morris added, though, guns are taken away after someone is legally committed.

"We do notify the [Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation] that they were committed, and that affected their ability to carry guns."

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said it attempted to serve the mental health assessment order three times.