Jared Loughner was able to buy a gun in Arizona because he had no convictions and no mental health evaluation on his record. Gun-control advocates worry about the database used to check prospective gun buyers, which is only as good as the records that states put into it, NPR reports. Several studies and experts say those records are often incomplete or missing.
The Justice Department says some states still enter records manually. In states where records are fully automated, a clerk in a courtroom can punch the information into the database. Other states pass a handwritten piece of paper from one office to the next before it gets entered — a delay that can be costly for victims of domestic violence who have requested immediate restraining orders. In 2009, the FBI ran 10.8 million background checks on potential gun buyers. About 150,000 people were rejected. Most had felony or domestic violence convictions, or a restraining order, on their records. Under 2 percent were rejected because of a mental illness.