Posts Tagged ‘Chattanooga shooting’

Why Universal Background Checks Cannot Keep Guns Out Of The Hands Of People With Mental Disabilities – – What Can

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

by  Elliot Fineman
CEO – Founder
National Gun Victims Action Council 


Keeping guns out of the hands of people with mental disabilities is a goal supported by everyone from Gun Violence Prevention Groups (GVP) to the NRA and gun lobby and gun owners.


But they differ on how this can be done. GVPs believe—fervently—that Universal Background Checks (UBC)—a background check for every gun sold whether by a dealer, in a private sale, over the Internet or by mail order—will keep guns out of dangerous hands. The gun lobby opposes UBCs and advocates “fixing the mental health system.” “If we had no mentally ill people, the problem would be solved.” But this is a red herring.


The position ignores all the developed countries with the same percentage of people with mental disabilities as the U.S. but not the same gun violence. Why? They have sane gun laws preventing gun proliferation and people with mental disabilities having access to them.


Even if we had UBC the problem of keeping guns out of the hands of mentally disabled people would not be solved. Why? Because the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)—the database maintained by the FBI intended to flag prohibited purchasers when they try to buy guns— is missing 93% of the mental health records.


How many mental health records should be in NICS?


Psychologist Martha Stout, a clinical instructor at Harvard medical school, indicates in her book “The Sociopath Next Door” that four percent of the U.S. population consists of “conscienceless” sociopaths—12 million Americans. Based on data provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 28.7% of American adults—66.5 million people—have been diagnosed and live with mental illnesses including major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorder.


The June 30, 2016 FBI Uniform Crime Report shows  a total of14.8 million prohibited purchasers in the NICS Database of which 4.5 million are in the category of Adjudicated Mental Health (Mentally Disabled). But the NICS database should have 66.5 million mentally disabled prohibited purchasers entered—not 4.5 million—62 million records (93%) are missing.


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Clearly, with 62 million mental health records missing, UBC cannot possibly keep guns out of the hands of people with mental disabilities. Eighty-five percent of all mass gun killers since 1982 passed their background check; all but 12 shooters in over 81 mass shootings were legal gun owners


Recent high profile murderers confirm this dangerous situation is ongoing. The Orlando, Dallas and Baton Rouge shooters and the Tucson, Aurora, Fort Hood, Navy Yard, Santa Barbara, Charleston, Planned Parenthood, Chattanooga, Kalamazoo, Roanoke, Umpqua, and Lafayette shooters all passed their background checks.




Elliot Fineman
CEO – Founder
National Gun Victims Action Council

Do you remember this 1988 school shooting? The NRA hopes not.

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015





“Laws Failing To Keep Guns Out Of Hands Of Disturbed” wrote the Chicago Tribune. “Suspect Had History Of Bizarre Acts.”


It is a headline that could have run after the Virginia Tech, Aurora, Santa Barbara, Fort Hood, Navy Yard, Tucson, Charleston, Chattanooga, Lafayette, Chapel Hill and Roanoke shootings–but it ran in Chicago in May of 1988. Then, like now, a clearly violent and mentally disturbed person bought a gun legally and unleashed a mass shooting. Then, like now (except in states with gun orders of protection) police could not confiscate a would-murderer’s guns because she had “rights.”


In May, 1988, a 30- year-old former babysitter named Laurie Dann who everyone knew was mentally ill shot six students at Hubbard Woods Elementary School, one of whom died, and another man before killing herself. Not only did Dann buy a gun legally, it was obvious to everyone around her what he intentions were.


Dann had a “thing” for raw meat, putting it under her mattress at college and stealing it from families she babysat for. She rode elevators for hours wearing rubber gloves to avoid touching the metal, appeared naked and started fires. Two days before the school shootings, Dann mailed arsenic laced snacks to former acquaintances and her psychiatrist and hand delivered others to fraternities at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.


After the Dann shootings, the community was outraged and fought the gun lobby which quickly descended (as it always does) to make sure no laws were passed just because a few kids got shot. At a town meeting, a gun advocate who yelled that a “handgun ban will hurt people” and criminals will get guns anyway was actually booed off the stage. Years later, Hubbard Woods School officials disinvited First Lady Laura Bush from a visit because of the Bush Administration’s inaction on guns.

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But by 2008, the Illinois gun lobby was king again. It killed a universal background check bill and bills to limit handgun purchases to one a month and to toughen child gun safety laws. Then as now, the bloodshed was cast as the “price of freedom” and not reason to take away the “right” to buy numerous handguns a month or the “right” to background check-free weapons sales at gun shows. The NRA not only helps traffickers and criminals by blocking such laws, it works for people under orders of protection or just released from mental institutions to keep their guns. 


There have been hundreds of shootings since Dann’s and no federal gun safety laws passed since 1993. Even after the murder of 20 six-year-olds, federal lawmakers thought universal background checks were too extreme. That is why, NGVAC recommends economic leverage and novel legal strategies that can stop gun violence now.


National Gun Victims Action Council (NGVAC) is a non-profit network of 14 million gun victims, survivors, the faith community and ordinary people leveraging their buying power to change America’s gun laws. NGVAC initiated the successful action that caused Starbucks to change its gun policy. NGVAC pursues novel legal strategies to reduce gun violence and encourages corporate involvement. NGVAC can be found at




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