Too Many Problems Plague National Gun Background System

Aug 28, 2015

In the wake of the recent gun massacres in the United States, gun advocates and anti-gun lobbyists are now agreeing that the background check system needs to be revamped. So many tragedies may have been prevented if the background system worked as it was designed. Now both sides are discussing how to mend the system to prevent the purchase of guns by those who are disqualified under federal law.

Under federal law, an individual is prohibited from purchasing a firearm from a federally licensed gun dealer if the person has been convicted of felonies, certain misdemeanors, people with a history of drug abuse and those convicted of certain drug crimes, and anyone who has been involuntarily committed for being dangerously mentally ill.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is supposed to keep guns away from this list of individuals. Even though the system has prevented the sale of 2.4 million guns, there are still some major gaps which can be attributed to inconsistency amongst the states and a narrow definition of who is considered too mentally ill to own a gun.

The National Rifle Association, argues that the background check system and database, should be repaired before other laws or controls are introduced. But gun control advocates say that even revamping the federal background system ignores a huge flaw in it, the fact that 40 percent of all gun sells are not subjected to background checks if the seller is a private citizen.

Another major issue is database consistency. There is no requirement that states actually add all individuals disqualified to purchase a gun to the national database, even though this process runs relatively smoothly. However, adding drug offenders and the mentally ill to the list is at best erratic. While some states have automatic systems, others have poor recordkeeping systems with very low commitment to inputting names into the database at all. It is not until some of these issues are resolved, perhaps via federal intervention, will the National Instant Criminal Background Check System live up to its potential.

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