In Wake of Mass Killings, States Still Don’t Comply with Gun Database of Mentally Ill

Monday, August 20, 2012
In the wake of recent mass killings in Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas and Louisiana, 67 survivors and family members of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting last week sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney demanding that they announce plans to improve the flawed U.S. background check system. As AllGov reported last November, that system regularly allows guns to be sold to disturbed and/or criminally dangerous people, including the shooters at the Virginia Tech (VT) and Tucson mass shootings.
The 13-year-old, FBI-run National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is supposed to tell gun dealers if a customer is ineligible to buy a gun because of a history of mental illness or a criminal record. But the Virginia Tech survivors’ letter points out that the database is missing millions of records because many states haven’t bothered to submit the relevant mental health records.
Updating a November 2011 report with new FBI data, the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) recently found that 21 states and the District of Columbia have reported fewer than 100 mental health records to NICS: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.
“I think that those states are doing a disservice to their citizens,” said Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was hurt in the Virginia Tech shooting. “They're not doing what they can to protect public safety and to keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.” Haas, who has become an advocate for stricter gun control, points out that VT gunman Seung-Hui Cho should have been in the NICS database, but was not. Since then, Virginia has submitted more than 170,000 records of people with mental illnesses.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in July found that some states weren’t submitting records because of bureaucratic and technical barriers, while other states contend their laws prohibit the record sharing. State submission of records to NICS is voluntary.
-Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
States Aren’t Submitting Records To Gun Database (by Jeff Brady, All Things Considered-NPR)


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