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Arizona Shootings: Twenty-Eight States Have Submitted Fewer Than 100 Mental Health Records to Background Check Database for Gun Sales

January 16, 2011

Failure Leaves More than a Million Mental Health Records Out and Allows Dangerous People to Buy Firearms

Firearms Policy Experts and Virginia Tech Massacre Family Members Available for Interview

NEW YORK, Jan. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner, bought a shotgun and passed a background check less than a year after he was rejected from the Army in 2008 for habitual drug use. He should have failed the shotgun background check, but he didn’t because his record wasn’t in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). He went on to buy a second gun, which he used to murder 6 people and injure 13 others.

Federal law prohibits dangerous people including felons, the mentally ill, and drug users from buying or possessing guns. But these people too often slip through the cracks and pass background checks because many key records are not in the database. At Virginia Tech, Seung Hui Cho was declared mentally ill by a judge, thereby barring him from gun possession under federal law – but his record was never submitted to NICS. Cho was then able to pass a background check and buy the guns he used to kill 32 people.

In response to Virginia Tech, Congress unanimously passed the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, which was designed to improve reporting into the system. It requires that all federal agencies report relevant records into NICS, and it created a system of incentives for states to improve their reporting.

But federal data from August 2010 show there is a wide disparity in states’ compliance.

Below is a state-by-state breakdown of state records submitted to NICS. For each state, the chart includes the total records submitted in 2006, total records submitted as of August 31, 2010, and total records submitted by each state per capita.


                        Mental Health     Mental Health
                        Records           Records           2010 Mental
                        Submitted         Submitted         Health Records
                        through Dec.      through Aug.      per 100,000
    State               31, 2006          31, 2010          inhabitants
    -----               -------------     -------------     --------------
    Alaska                            0                 0                 0
    ------                          ---               ---               ---
    Delaware                          0                 0                 0
    --------                        ---               ---               ---
    Hawaii                            0                 0                 0
    ------                          ---               ---               ---
    Idaho                             0                 0                 0
    -----                           ---               ---               ---
    Mass.                             0                 0                 0
    -----                           ---               ---               ---
    Minnesota                         0                 0                 0
    ---------                       ---               ---               ---
    New Mexico                        0                 0                 0
    ----------                      ---               ---               ---
    North Dakota                      0                 0                 0
    ------------                    ---               ---               ---
    Pennsylvania                      0                 0                 0
    ------------                    ---               ---               ---
    Rhode Island                      0                 0                 0
    ------------                    ---               ---               ---
    Oregon                            0                 1                 0
    ------                          ---               ---               ---
    Louisiana                         0                 1                 0
    ---------                       ---               ---               ---
    South Dakota                      0                 1               0.1
    ------------                    ---               ---               ---
    Nebraska                          0                 1               0.1
    --------                        ---               ---               ---
    Mississippi                       0                 2               0.1
    -----------                     ---               ---               ---
    Oklahoma                          0                 2               0.1
    --------                        ---               ---               ---
    Kentucky                          1                 4               0.1
    --------                        ---               ---               ---
    New Jersey                        0                 8               0.1
    ----------                      ---               ---               ---
    Illinois                          0                14               0.1
    --------                        ---               ---               ---
    New Hampshire                     1                 2               0.2
    -------------                   ---               ---               ---
    Montana                           0                 3               0.3
    -------                         ---               ---               ---
    South Carolina                    0                13               0.3
    --------------                  ---               ---               ---
    Wyoming                           3                 3               0.5
    -------                         ---               ---               ---
    Maryland                          2                45               0.8
    --------                        ---               ---               ---
    Maine                             0                24               1.8
    -----                           ---               ---               ---
    Utah                              5                72               2.6
    ----                            ---               ---               ---
    Iowa                             46                94               3.1
    ----                            ---               ---               ---
    Vermont                           0                25                 4
    -------                         ---               ---               ---
    Alabama                          24               230               4.8
    -------                         ---               ---               ---
    Nevada                            0               163                 6
    ------                          ---               ---               ---
    Wisconsin                         0               518               9.1
    ---------                       ---               ---               ---
    Tennessee                         2               760                12
    ---------                       ---               ---               ---
    District of
     Columbia                         0                80              13.3
    -----------                     ---               ---              ----
    Indiana                           0             1,736              26.8
    -------                         ---             -----              ----
    Georgia                           0             2,991              30.9
    -------                         ---             -----              ----
    West Virginia                     0               609              32.9
    -------------                   ---               ---              ----
    Arkansas                         46             1,422              48.8
    --------                        ---             -----              ----
    Arizona                           0             5,036              78.8
    -------                         ---             -----              ----
    Kansas                          972             3,185             111.6
    ------                          ---             -----             -----
    North Carolina                  304            12,932             135.6
    --------------                  ---            ------             -----
    Connecticut                       0             5,327               149
    -----------                     ---             -----               ---
    Florida                           0            32,411             172.4
    -------                         ---            ------             -----
    Missouri                        388            11,404             190.4
    --------                        ---            ------             -----
    Ohio                              1            22,440             194.5
    ----                            ---            ------             -----
    Texas                             0            60,680             241.3
    -----                           ---            ------             -----
    Colorado                      7,804            21,696             431.4
    --------                      -----            ------             -----
    Washington                       15            32,947               490
    ----------                      ---            ------               ---
    California                       21           256,106             687.5
    ----------                      ---           -------             -----
    New York                          1           154,962             799.7
    --------                        ---           -------             -----
    Michigan                     71,304            97,827             989.8
    --------                     ------            ------             -----
    Virginia                     78,478           139,185          1,739.60
    --------                     ------           -------          --------

    Totals                      159,418           864,962        Avg. 280.2
    ------                      -------           -------        ----------

Counting additional submissions by federal agencies, the FBI reported total size of the NICS “Mental Defective/Committed” file to total 1,107,758 records, as of December, 31 2010. According to estimates from the General Accounting Office, at least another 1.5 million disqualifying mental health records are still missing from the file, as well as millions more missing records on various other types of prohibited purchasers.

As the number of records has increased, so has the number of mentally ill people attempting to buy guns rejected by the background check system. In 2006 only 405 federal NICS database searches resulted in rejection due to mental health issues. In 2010 that number increased to 1,292. The large number of missing records suggest that thousands of mentally ill individuals purchase firearms each year because of the failing background check system.

Many states have made little or no progress reporting, largely because from FY 2009 through FY 2011 Congress appropriated only 5.3% of the amount authorized by the NICS Improvement Amendments Act in grants to states to improve reporting.

The failure to promptly put all relevant records into the database has frustrated some family members of Virginia Tech victims.

“Although the number of records submitted to the federal gun background check system has increased since the NICS Improvement Act was enacted in January 2008, it is clear that the system is still broken, said Peter Read, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.), father of Mary Read, who was killed at Virginia Tech. “It’s been over 3 years since my daughter and 31 others were shot and killed at Virginia Tech because of a broken and inadequate background check system. Now, it has happened again. Enough is enough.”

For more information, please read the Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ letter calling for full funding of the NICS Improvement Act: http://mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/downloads/pdf/nics_letter_support_3_12_10.pdf

Available for Interviews

  • Edgar Domenech, former Acting Director and Deputy Director of ATF who led ATF’s VA Tech investigation and is now New York City Sheriff.
  • Peter Read, Lt. Col. USAF (Ret.), father of Mary Read, killed of the Virginia Tech shootings.
  • John Feinblatt, Chief Advisor to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg for Policy and Strategic Planning
  • Arkadi Gerney, Special Advisor to Mayor Bloomberg on firearms policy and staff for Mayors Against Illegal Guns

About Mayors Against Illegal Guns

SOURCE Mayors Against Illegal Guns


Source: newswire



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