The Arizona shooting shows the difficulty states face keeping guns away from people struggling with mental-health issues, reports the Wall Street Journal. Since 1968, federal law has prohibited the sale of guns to anyone declared mentally unfit. First, a court has to decide someone is unfit—a very high standard. Then, the resident's state is supposed to supply the mental-health records to an FBI database created in 1998 for background checks of would-be gun buyers.
The trouble is, many states have been slow to submit records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The National Center for State Courts says there should be roughly twice as many mental-health records in the national database as there currently are. A mentally ill person who has been banned from buying a weapon can circumvent the system by using an unlicensed dealer at a gun show because no background check is required for such transactions. The Arizona suspect, Jared Loughner, didn't encounter any obstacles in buying a gun in the state. Campus police at a community college had been told of his disruptive behavior in classes but he was not under court-ordered mental treatment.