Mandatory background checks on would-be gun purchasers have identified relatively few with histories of mental illness – perhaps owing in part to lack of data.
Between 1998 and 2009, 95 million potential buyers’ records were scanned. Just 0.03 percent were denied a gun over mental illness concerns.
An inadequate database might explain the slim findings. Money is one issue. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) struggles with dwindling funding.
Lax state participation is another issue. About half the states have not supplied their records, though participation increased following the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. After that incident, with more data to review, NICS files flagged for mental concerns increased from 175,000 to 400,000. By 2010, the number was up to 859,000. Since the recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut background checks have skyrocketed.
Check out our infographic for more on the challenges of identifying mental illness in background checks. See “What Do Others Say?” for more views, then add to the discussion below. How can we make a system already in place work more effectively?