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One of the few gun control measures that is already in place--background checks--is fatally flawed. Charlie Savage has an unsettling article on how gaping holes in the FBI's database of criminal and mental health records allow thousands of people to buy firearms each year who should be barred from doing so.

It boggles the mind that while
* the NSA collects and sifts through billions of email messages and phone calls of U.S. citizens to look for patterns, and
* DHS has spent a few hundred million on "fusion centers" to promote state-federal information sharing
the gun background check system is broken because the FBI database is woefully incomplete--missing information on several categories of prohibited gun buyers, including records of people involuntarily committed or otherwise ruled mentally ill, those who have tested positive for illegal drugs, or have a history of domestic violence.

Millions of names of people prohibited from buying guns are missing from the FBI background-check database, largely because states have not turned over relevant records on people deemed too dangerous to own a firearm.

And why is that? Because the gun background check system is purely voluntary.

And why is that? Because in 1997, the Supreme Court ruled in Printz v. United States that the federal government can't force states to participate in a federal background check system due to federalism concerns. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act had required local law enforcement officials to conduct background checks on people seeking to buy guns. Under these provisions of the law, approximately 6,600 applications a month were rejected because the would‐be purchasers fell into one of several proscribed categories, such as felons and drug users.

The database flaw is directly linked to the biggest gun massacre at a school so far: Virginia Tech.

In that case, a Virginia state judge had declared the gunman [Seung-Hui Cho] mentally ill, but the record of that proceeding was not submitted to the F.B.I. He was able to pass a background check and buy the weapons he used to kill 32 people and wound 17 others.
Virginia has increased its reporting to the FBI, but nearly half the states in the country have not.

Savage's article notes FBI data shows that

[s]ince 2005, 22,162 firearms — including nearly 3,000 this year — have been bought after the waiting period by people later determined to have been disqualified because of their criminal and mental histories.
I think we can all agree that violent felons, fugitives and those adjudicated to be mentally ill should not be able to buy guns. While Congress cannot legislate that states have to comply with a federal background-check law, each state can certainly enact its own law that mandates reporting to the F.B.I.’s National Instant Criminal Background Check system,

Originally posted to Jesselyn Radack on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:20 AM PST.

Also republished by Whistleblowers Round Table.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (25+ / 0-)

    My book, TRAITOR: THE WHISTLEBLOWER & THE "AMERICAN TALIBAN," is Amazon's #1 Best Seller in Human Rights Books for February 2012.

    by Jesselyn Radack on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:20:33 AM PST

  •  Thanks for this. I was wondering (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    why the gap after I heard Cory Booker mention it on one of Piers Morgan's shows recently.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:28:29 AM PST

  •  You would think that post 9/11 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with the Patriot Act in place and domestic surveillance being far and away higher than it was in 1997, that this would not be an issue.

    Don't we need a national database of felons, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill for national security? It seems like they are much more of a potential security threat than random Muslims.

    Filibuster reform now. No more Gentleman's agreements.

    by bear83 on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:44:28 AM PST

  •  Your civil rights and money (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CroneWit, aliasalias, Calamity Jean

    Today, our civil rights are only important in so far as someone can make money from the exercise of those rights

    Your right to be free of government phone and mail taps: limited.
    Your right to be free og voernemnt search and seizure: limited.
    Your right to petition the government for a redress of grievences: limited.
    Your right to own and use a firearm: expanded.

    See, owning and using a gun makes money for the gun industry, so the right to own and use a gun is being expanded.  No one makes any money if you are free of government phone and mail tapping, so your right to be free of phone and mail tapping is further eroded.

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 07:00:35 AM PST

  •  'prevented by Congress' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Sandino

    From the Savage article you linked --

    Some of the weapons were used in violent crimes, including a fatal drive-by shooting, but it is not clear how many were linked to criminal acts, because authorities are barred by Congress from tracking such information.
    Is 'barred by Congress' another example of the NRA directly interfering with legislation in such a way that no records which might 'incriminate' guns are permitted to be created/kept?  CDC & NIH also prevented from generating such records; also recent FrontPage article pointing to similar 'record prevention' in ACA/Obamacare law.
    •  Yesterday on Fresh Air (5+ / 0-)

      Terry Gross interviewed  Tom Diaz, a senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center and author of the forthcoming book "The Last Gun."

      GROSS: Is there any research on how these semiautomatic weapons are being used? I mean we know they've been used in massacres, but many more people buy them than become killers who go on these killing sprees. So are people using these as hunting rifles?

      DIAZ: The industry says that they are, but preliminarily let me say this: Let's assume that there is a large number - a large number of people who - take your choice of benign uses - use it for hunting, use it for target shooting. The policy choice, the cultural choice that we face is: Is that enough, does that balance the bad consequences that we know flow from the easy availability of these firearms? Does that balance the slaughter of children? Does it balance the increasing killing of law enforcement officers that we see from assault rifles? Does it balance the traffic to other countries from the United States civilian market?

      So it's not just a question of do other people use these. The direct answer to your question is, because the gun industry and the National Rifle Association have been so very successful in shutting down federal sources of data - for example, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and basically shutting down cogent research from the Centers for Disease Control and Injury - we don't really know the extent of the use of these guns in crime, because we cannot get even the generic aggregate data. It's been shut down. What we learned from are simply - for example, at the Violence Policy Center we do a lot of anecdotal research. I, for example, did a study about assault weapons a couple years ago, but I had to rely entirely on what I could derive from news reports and other public sources.

      You cannot get that information from government sources because of something called the Tiahrt Amendment, which has basically shut down ATF from releasing data. So...

      GROSS: So this amendment prevents the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms from releasing information about what guns have been used in crimes. Do I have that right?

      Hobbs: "How come we play war and not peace?" Calvin: "Too few role models."

      by BOHICA on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 07:08:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sadly, no background checks are even required (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, aliasalias

    in many instances. Gun shows in several states have pretty much a cash and carry policy.
    See Fast and Furious "investigation" by sideshow rep Darrel Issa for evidence of loose gunshow policies.
    It's a ridiculous counterpoint of laxity in light of domestic spying.

  •  Excellent Diary, thankyou for illuminating.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe shikspack

    ... real issues.

    So much hand wringing and axe grinding going on in the media and even on DKos, it's nice to have real issues to sink our teeth into, and real problems to solve that should not exist and must be rectified.

  •  Thom Hartmann: NRA kills more than Al Qaeda (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe shikspack, aliasalias

    NRA Has More Blood on Its Hands Than al-Qaeda: What Do We Do?

    NRA beat back a gun control measure that would have prevented those on the FBI’s terror watch list from purchasing a gun

    Information is the currency of democracy. ~Thomas Jefferson

    by CIndyCasella on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 11:39:10 AM PST

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