NEW YORK — 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.
|State||Mental Health Records Submitted through Dec. 31, 2006||Mental Health Records Submitted through Aug. 31, 2010||2010 Mental Health Records per 100,000 inhabitants|
|District of Columbia||0||80||13.3|