More states are turning over records to a federal database of mentally ill people barred from owning guns, nearly tripling the number in the system since the massacre at Virginia Tech last spring, reports USA Today. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which federally licensed gun dealers must consult before selling a gun, has about 402,000 records from 32 states of people declared mentally ill by a court, compared with 165,778 before Virginia Tech. States send records only after a court has committed individuals for involuntary psychiatric treatment or found them to be dangerous to themselves or others. Steven Kazmierczak, 27, the shooter at Northern Illinois University last week, had been seeing a psychiatrist in the months before the rampage.
Still, the database is missing up to 90 percent of the mentally ill. “That’s scary,” says Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Helmke says the missing records stem from “the inertia of bureaucracy” rather than strong ideological opposition. The Brady Campaign estimates the database should have at least 2 million records. California, Virginia, and Michigan contribute about 368,000 of the 402,000 records. A new federal law will prod even more states into sending records. It gives states grants to pay for collecting the information for the federal database. States that don’t participate could lose federal money for law enforcement.