Weapons violence policy focuses on mental health, but some states are still missing from federal records

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Federal officials say the FBI’s database of people banned from buying firearms only works if there is “complete, accurate and timely information.”

Mental health records are a key element in the system. But three states – New Hampshire, Montana and Wyoming – still refuse to represent them.

While U.S. senators are pushing for gun reform initiatives, many Republicans like sen. John Cornin of Texas has repeatedly cited legislation that stops people with criminal records or mental health challenges from receiving a firearm.

Cornin backed a 2018 bill aimed at backing the FBI’s National Immediate Verification System, or NICS, following a shooting at a church in Texas that left 27 dead. The dead include the shooter, an Air Force pilot whose criminal records that would have prevented him from buying weapons were not provided to NICS.

“For years, agencies and states have failed to comply with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequences,” Cornin said as he celebrated Fix NICS decisions, which called for faster and more accurate submissions. “Only one record this is not properly reported and can lead to tragedy. “

President Donald Trump has signed the bill, which is pumping $ 615 million into the United States to close doors and increase reporting in the FBI system.

States have made significant progress, reporting a database of 26 million records, including 6.9 million people identified by a judge as mentally ill.

Without state laws mandatory participation, Montana and Wyoming submitted 36 and 17 mental health files, respectively. New Hampshire presented 657. By comparison, Hawaii – with roughly the same population as New Hampshire – presented nearly 10,000 mental health records.

Records from government-run mental health facilities in the three states show that hundreds more were inadvertently involved – all of whom had to be sent to NICS.

History of this program

The National System of Verification of the Past was established as part of the Brady Gun Violence Prevention Act of 1993. Gun shops, pawnshops and other licensed dealers across the country must use it when someone wants to buy a firearm.

Potential gun buyers must fill out a form from the Office of Alcoholic Tobacco Firearms and Explosives certifying certain issues, after which their name is released through the FBI system.

The FBI says more than 300 million checks have been made over time, leading to more than 2 million denials.

Holes in the mental health record system caught attention in 2007 after a shooting at Virginia Tech left 32 dead. Two years earlier, a court found that a student shooter was “an immediate danger to himself or others” after he was accused of harassing two classmates, leading to temporary detention, which should have disqualified him from buying a firearm. weapon.

At that time, only about half of the states reported NICS mental health records. By 2012, that number had shrunk to about 19 states with less than 100 records, and by 2014 it had dropped to eight. In 2016, it fell to four until Alaska increased its accountability.

“We know that background checking is as good as the records it contains, so efforts to improve the reporting of NICS records are crucial for public safety“Said Kelly Drane, research director at the Giffords Law Center, a group on gun violence prevention.” offenses against persons prohibited. “

The Fix NICS Act, written by Cornyn and a senator from the Democratic Party. Chris Murphy has been dubbed a “baby step” by gun control advocates, but has won the support of both major gun lobbies, the National Shooting Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation continues to lobby in New Hampshire, Montana and Wyoming to tighten accounts.

“We are committed to ensuring that the background verification system reflects the most accurate data available,” said Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the foundation.

Strange friends continue

Efforts to expand past checks to be “universal” – applicable to private sales – have failed at both the state and federal levels. But gun rights lobbyists and gun security groups have banded together to strengthen NICS.

Resistance has made some “strange friends,” said Susan Stearns, executive director of the New Hampshire branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The Stearns group opposed a 2017 measure to report mental illness to NICS, largely because it did not include a way out of the list.

“The alliance’s position has always been: If they pose a danger to themselves or others, they must be prevented from accessing deadly means, period,” Stearns said. “But you should not lose your constitutional rights for life.”

Stearns said people in mental health crises often recover, but may be permanently prevented from participating in shooting and hunting.

New Hampshire officials present court records for anyone who is considered incompetent to be tried or acquitted for insanity, but not for those who are inadvertently placed in a health facility.

The alliance was lukewarm on the former Democratic senator’s bill. Margie MacDonald is also in Montana, although her bill included a path that should be removed from the list in five years.

MacDonald tried in 2014 and again in 2019 to pass a bill requiring the presentation of the records. In the end, she said the Republican opposition, fueled by hardline gun groups in the state, had lost its efforts.

“It’s discouraging, embarrassing and very dangerous,” she said.

MacDonald hosted the father of the 2014 Virginia Tech victim for a hearing in Helena, Montana. The mother of a woman killed in 2008 by a man who bought a firearm just days after he was inadvertently taken to a psychiatric hospital was also tested. He had lied on the ATF form, saying no if he had ever been found mentally ill.

Lying in the form can lead to fines and up to 10 years in prison.

Data released to the Washington Post by the Department of Justice shows that cases involving lies in the form are extremely rare: 243 in fiscal 2020, out of millions of checks.

In Wyoming, the former rapper. Sarah Burlingheim, D-Cheyenne, is sponsoring efforts in 2019 to enforce NICS mental health reporting, which has also failed. She said she was facing “first-class evidence of misinformation” from groups such as gun owners in Wyoming, backed by the Dor brothers.

Burlingame said that Wyoming’s ranking as the worst place to commit suicide per capita was reason enough to keep firearms away from people in crisis.

“This has to do with older white men who are isolated and have access to firearms,” ​​Burlingame said. “If this does not inspire people to create a culture that preserves our cultural right to firearms and moral obligations, I do not know what will.

“This is health legislation that every other country has understood.


Reporting mental health records in the national firearms inspection system reduces suicide rates


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Quote: Arms violence policy focuses on mental health, but some states (2022, June 17, 2022), extracted on June 17, 2022 from https://phys.org/news, are still missing from federal records / 2022-06-gun-violence-policy-focusing-mental .html

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