Expert: Psychologist recommendations hold more weight than university input in gun permit cases like Salameh


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Officials say Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek was right in giving Taleb Salameh a gun permit, and one gun expert said that a psychologist or psychiatrist would hold more authority than a university’s assessments.

Criminologist Don Kates, a research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., said in terms of U.S. law, the sheriff is not able to rely on information from the university alone.

“As a legal matter in the general law, a sheriff could not rely on any information in respect of the campus,” Kates said. “The campus cannot give authoritative opinion, but it can give evidence to the sheriff.”

Salameh, 28, who was studying mechanical engineering at the University of Iowa, died Sunday after engaging in a confrontation with North Liberty police officers.

North Liberty police responded to a domestic-dispute call at the North Liberty Holiday Mobile Home Court. Upon arrival, police officials made contact with Salameh and the female victim, resulting in a shooting.

Three police officials suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were transported to UI Hospitals and Clinics, according to a release from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. The officers are currently on administrative leave.

According to documents obtained by the Iowa City Press Citizen, in a letter sent in 2010 to Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, Salameh’s psychologist, Gregory Gullickson, supported Salameh’s application for a gun permit.

Gullickson stated that Salameh was not showing any signs of “impulse-control” or “substance-abuse problems.” He also said that Salameh felt as if his mood had been improving. Gullickson said there was no reason Salameh should not be permitted to own firearms, according to the letter.

Pulkrabek ultimately approved Salameh’s application, the Press-Citizen reported.

Pulkrabek was unable to reached for comment Tuesday evening.

According to records obtained Monday, UI Dean of Students David Grady recommended to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office that it deny Salameh’s gun-permit application. Since Grady became dean of students in 2990, Salameh was one of only two students whom Grady has recommended that the Sheriff’s Office deny permits to.

Kates believes that sheriffs do not have to base their judgment strictly on a university’s assessment.
“A campus can give a sheriff information, but it has no expertise, so it is not entitled to base any judgments,” he said. “The psychiatrist’s or psychologist’s view has some value, while the campus view is worthless.”

Although records indicate Salameh had prior run-ins with the law, he was not charged with a felony.  He was charged on Sept. 11, 2010, with public intoxication and assault causing injury.

A felony is one way to prevent a citizen from getting a gun permit, Kates said. The second way is if the citizen’s sanity is in question.

“On several occasions though, prosecutors do not prosecute crimes as felonies, which means the gun laws do not prevent criminals from buying guns legally,” he said.

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