The Virginia Tech shooting has brought to light serious inadequacies in the background-check system for gun purchases and has prompted renewed calls to fix it, says the Christian Science Monitor. Many experts agree that shooter Cho Seung Hui should not have been able to buy a gun at a federally licensed shop because a judge had ruled that he was mentally ill and ordered him to seek treatment. Federal law says any person “adjudicated as a mental defective” is prohibited from buying firearms.
Cho’s name was not in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Virginia law says a person must be committed to an institution to be barred from buying a gun. Experts say such communication breakdowns, as well as a significant lack of federal resources, have resulted in a background-check system that is incomplete, inaccurate, and out of date. A reform bill has stalled in Congress; sponsors hope that this year, with the change in leadership and the tragedy in Virginia, it has a better likelihood of passing. “Our purpose is simply to see to it that if we have an instant background check, that it in fact works. There are significant problems with it,” says Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), a former National Rifle Association board member. “We’re not putting the money into it, the states aren’t putting the effort into it, and there is neither the carrot nor the stick to the degree that there should be to require that the records be properly kept.”