An Alabama man with a history of mental illness killed two police officers with a rifle he bought on Christmas Eve. A New York schizophrenic walked into a church during Mass and shot to death a priest and a parishioner. In Texas, a woman taking anti-psychotic medication used a shotgun to kill herself. The Associated Press offers those examples of people whose names were not in a database that licensed gun dealers must check before making sales even though federal law prohibits the mentally ill from purchasing guns. Most states have privacy laws barring such information from being shared with law enforcement. Legislation pending in Congress seeks to get more of the disqualifying records in the database.
Similar measures, opposed by some advocates for the mentally ill and gun-rights groups, did not pass Congress in 2002 and 2004. The FBI has not taken a position on the bill but the bureau is blunt about what adding names to its database would do. “The availability of this information will save lives,” the FBI said. More than 53 million background checks for gun sales have been conducted since 1998. More than 850,000 sales have been denied; in most cases, the applicant had a criminal record. Legislation sponsored by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), says millions of records are either missing or incomplete. In the Alabama case, police say Farron Barksdale ambushed the officers as they arrived at the home of his mother. He had been committed involuntarily to mental hospitals on at least two occasions.