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Obama Says Mentally Ill Should Be Prevented From Buying Guns

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Thursday that laws should be strengthened to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns.

Cho Seung-Hui, the gunman who shot 32 people at Virginia Tech Monday before killing himself, had a history of mental health problems but still was able to buy two guns that he used in the rampage.

``If we know that he got mental health services, then there should be some way of preventing somebody like that from buying any kind of weapon,'' Obama said in an interview on ``The Steve Harvey Morning Show,'' syndicated on radio stations nationwide.

Federal law prohibits the mentally ill from purchasing guns, but most states have privacy laws barring such information from being shared with law enforcement. Some advocates for the mentally ill and gun-rights groups have opposed legislation in recent years that would include the information in computerized record-keeping.

Obama said gun laws have to be changed to prevent the type of killings that happened not only at Virginia Tech this week but are persistent in urban areas across the country.

``I mean, kids are getting gunned down every day,'' the Illinois senator said. ``It's not 32 at a time, but if you look at the statistics, you're seeing that same kind of violence on a pretty frequent basis. And that's part of our culture that we've just got to be able to change with some commonsense.''

Obama said hunters have to be persuaded that there's a difference between buying a rifle to hunt and gun violence.

``I'm respectful of people who want to hunt or sportsmen, somebody who might want to have a gun in the house to protect their home. But it's hard to imagine why you would need 19 rounds in a semiautomatic,'' he said.

The senator also said mental health services also should be improved to identify people with serious problems who aren't getting treatment.

Cho had been ordered to a psychiatric hospital but was released with orders to undergo outpatient treatment. Virginia is one of the states that provides mental health records, and it's unclear why that didn't stop Cho's purchase.
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