Gun ownership and mental health

Despite police thinking Justin Hefner may have mental health issues, Hefner was able to obtain his guns legally. Officials are now questioning the system in place for background checks, and resources available to deal with mental health.

Posted: Feb 20, 2018 4:04 PM
Updated: Feb 20, 2018 6:41 PM

PARIS, Ill. (WTHI) - Justin Hefner was taken into custody Saturday after posing as a federal official and showing up to the Edgar County Sheriff's Department armed.

Officials are now looking into his mental status.

The tricky part with Hefner's case is the gun strapped to his chest when he arrived at the sheriff's department ended up being a bb gun. That means officials weren't able to give him more serious charges. Only $20,000 bond stands between him and freedom.

But since police believed Hefner aimed to hurt people, they want to check out his mental health before letting him go.

Edgar County Sheriff Jeff Wood says, "This time we're just taking every precaution. We're trying to deal with mental health now. You know there's some issues there I believe."

Wood is referring to Justin Hefner. He says Hefner was arrested for posing as a federal official and showing up to the department armed. Because of threats made on the internet, officials believe Hefner intended to harm people.

Police say despite having possible mental issues, Hefner obtained his guns by the book.

Sheriff’s Deputy Dee Burgin says, "He had a concealed carry permit from Indiana and he bought his AR legally and he had it legally in his vehicle."

Burgin says Hefner was even transporting the weapon legally. Now, questions circle back to concerns of the suspect's mental health.

Deputy Burgin says, "I feel like maybe there's a loophole in our system, our check and balance system for purchasing weapons. But I hope that every day that goes by we make the system better. We make the checks better on these people so they can't get guns."

Judy Bradshaw has lived in Paris for 48 years. Even she sees the lack of mental health resources in the rural area.
Bradshaw says, "We need more health facilities for that purpose. But like everything else it's hard to do, and hard to fund."

That’s a statement echoed by Sheriff Wood.

Sheriff Wood says, "Our problem is lack of resources. You know we don't have the people, we don't have the training to deal with people with these kind of mental problems. We're just trying to get the right people in here, asking for help from anyone that can help us."

Sheriff Wood says larger government agencies have been contacted for help. He says his department is also planning on how to better handle situations like this in the future.

The first step in getting back to mental wellness is to find and get help. However, sometimes people don't know where to turn.
There are many resources available in the Wabash Valley:

Hamilton Center Mental Health Screening Online 


Hamilton Center
620 Eighth Avenue
Terre Haute, in 47804
(800) 742-0787

Mental Health: Southeastern Illinois Counseling Center Crisis Number: 618-395-5026

Human Resources Center of Edgar/Clark counties
118 E Court St,
Paris, IL 61944
Phone: (217) 465-4118
Afterhour Crisis Number: (217) 234-6405

MentalHealth.gov 

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