The Lookout

Report: National background check system is full of holes

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

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Licensed dealer Jacob Dewell discusses the legal aspects of a gun sale with a private seller in Colorado. (Kevin …

President Barack Obama, expected to announce Wednesday "a package of concrete proposals” to prevent another tragedy like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, is likely to ask that Congress expand the federal criminal background check system used before every gun purchase.

But the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is supposed to determine whether the buyer is a felon, has been declared mentally ill by a judge or is otherwise disqualified from purchasing a weapon, is riddled with gaps that leave out millions of people who are barred from buying guns, the Wall Street Journal reports today. States are often slow to update their criminal records to the system, especially when it comes to people recently convicted of drug crimes, who are temporarily barred from purchasing weapons even if their crimes do not rise to the felony level.

Additionally, a 1997 Supreme Court decision said states cannot be forced to provide mental health records to the federal government, which means the database is also lacking information on who has been declared mentally ill by a judge from most states.

Right now, up to 40 percent of all weapons are purchased without background checks, through private sellers and gun shows. Obama may also announce proposals to improve the background check system, including executive orders that compel federal agencies to share more of their records with the database.

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