A federal database with the names of mentally ill people barred from buying guns still lacks millions of records it needs to be effective, reports NPR, quoting a report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns pointing to gaps in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The problem is that 14 years after NICS was put in place, states still aren’t submitting all the required mental health records. “I think that those states are doing a disservice to their citizens,” says Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was injured in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. “They’re not doing what they can to protect public safety and to keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.”
Since the shooting, Virginia has become a model, submitting more than 170,000 records of people with mental illnesses. The Mayors Against Illegal Guns report shows 21 other states have reported fewer than 100 records. The Government Accountability Office examined why states aren’t submitting records. Some cited bureaucratic barriers, others technical ones, like switching from paper-based to computer systems. And some states contend it violates their laws to forward mental health records to the federal database. A few states are changing their laws. Recent shootings demonstrate that people with mental illnesses are still able to buy guns.