Utah law as well as federal law requires a background check to buy any kind of firearm, and the state can deny a purchase based on a person's history of mental illness. But that happens only rarely. Dwayne Baird with the Utah Department of Public Safety says someone who's been found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity would be ineligible, or others whose history of violence has been certified by a district court.
"You have a history of violence, you've been arrested for violent-type behavior," Baird explains, "you've shown a propensity to commit violent acts and the judge then would...they're able to bring together a group of mental health professionals, experts if you will, to evaluate your case."
Baird says the state processed more than 90,000 background checks over the past 12 months. It denied only 35 on the basis of mental illness. Almost 2,000 others were denied for different reasons, such as a felony conviction or a history of domestic violence. The law only applies to sales at retail stores and gun shows. It doesn't affect private transactions between individuals.