New Justice Department awards of nearly $17 million in grants for eight states to improve their Brady background check systems were made possible by a 2007 federal law passed after the Virginia Tech massacre. Although a Virginia court had found him to be dangerously mentally ill, the Virginia Tech shooter passed two Brady background checks because Virginia had not submitted the appropriate records to the FBI’s National Instant Check System, says the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Seven of the eight states (Idaho, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin) that were announced as grant recipients this week had submitted very few records of mental health adjudications to the FBI through November 2008. Only Florida, which receives a $3,159,228 grant, had submitted a significant number of those records since 2001. The other seven states receiving grants had submitted fewer than 40 records combined as of November 2008. Since the Virginia Tech shootings, 12 states – Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin – have enacted legislation to improve their reporting. Two governors – Virginia's Tim Kaine and Maryland's Martin O'Malley – have signed executive orders to improve their states' performance on record submission. Six states submitted a large number of records to NICS in either 2007 or 2008: Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Missouri, and Ohio, as well as Florida. In 2009 $10 million was appropriated by Congress, but only three states – Nevada, New York and Oregon – qualified for grants, totaling just over $2.5 million.