After repeatedly refusing Daily Herald legal requests, state police relented in part Tuesday, talking for the first time about details of the Northern Illinois University shooter's gun card.
Steven Kazmierczak's mental health history didn't raise red flags, Illinois State Police First Deputy Director Chuck Brueggemann said. The 27-year-old had checked "no" on a gun card application question that asked if he had been "a patient of any medical facility … used primarily for the care or treatment of persons for mental illness" in the previous five years.
"The information the Illinois State Police has is that he answered that question appropriately," Brueggemann said.
What is publicly known about the gunman's treatment history is that his parents reportedly committed him in 1998 to a private mental health facility in Chicago, shortly after he graduated from Elk Grove High School, putting that incident outside the state's five-year scope.
The man who shot and killed five students in an NIU lecture hall Feb. 14 had applied for his gun permit in December 2006, when he still attended the university as a well-respected sociology graduate student, state police also revealed Tuesday. The gun card was processed and granted the following month, Brueggemann said.
State police spoke publicly after the Daily Herald detailed its dead-end quest to obtain the gun card records. State police previously told the paper the gunman's information was exempt from the state's public record laws, because it was an invasion of privacy. Officials also said his information could be kept confidential in much the same way as personnel files of doctors and others with state professional licenses.
Brueggemann said some of the application information was shared Tuesday because of the unique situation and an executive decision. Thanking the Daily Herald's efforts Tuesday while speaking at a news conference on campus security, Brueggemann said, "We are all learning" and the public has a "legitimate interest" in the records.
In a Daily Herald article published in Monday editions, gun rights advocates, gun control activists and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office said the shooter's gun card information should be released.
Despite revealing some crucial pieces, Illinois State Police Sgt. Luis Gutierrez said the department still would not release the requested hard copy of the gunman's gun card application and related documents.
"It's still going to be denied," Gutierrez said. "It's not going to be honored."
Under the usual mental-health screening process done by state police, Bruggemann said the Department of Human Services didn't flag the gunman. The state's mental health records include lists of all patients admitted to both public and private mental health facilities, said human services spokesman Tom Green.
New gun laws effective this June are designed, in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, to greatly expand the background check process -- narrowing the approval of gun card applicants who receive outpatient mental health treatment or whose violent tendencies are deemed harmful to themselves or others.
During Tuesday's news conference, Gov. Rod Blagojevich called for even tighter gun laws and suggested perhaps a counselor should have input on whether a person could obtain or continue to carry a gun card. But he did not elaborate or outline a specific proposal.