Fix background-check system for gun buyers
The U.S. House has approved a bill to fix flaws in the gun background check system.
CONGRESS has begun to take needed action in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting rampage to repair the system of checking the background of people wanting to buy firearms. Hawaii's gun laws are strong, but they do little good if other states fail to report information for inclusion in the federal database.
Virginia is among only 22 states -- including Hawaii -- that report any mental health information to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check. However, that policy did not stop Seung-Hui Cho from killing 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech in April before turning the gun on himself.
Cho had been ordered by a Virginia judge to undergo outpatient mental health treatment, which should have barred him from buying the two guns he used in the shooting. However, the state failed to forward the information to the federal database.
Hawaii has a much better record than other states in keeping people who have been involuntarily committed for mental treatment from buying guns. The state averages 65 such denials for every 10,000 applicants, according to a 2002 report by the Americans for Gun Safety Foundation.
The congressional Government Accountability Office estimated in 2000 that the database lacks information about as many as 2.6 million people who have been involuntary institutionalized. It contains only 90,000 records of those mentally disqualified from buying guns.
By voice vote, the House this week approved a bill that would require state and federal agencies to transmit all disqualifying records to the database, providing $250 million a year to help them do that and penalties if they don't. The National Rifle Association supports the bill, which deserves the Senate's quick approval.
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