Posts Tagged ‘background check’

Known To Be Violent and Mentally Disturbed, the Parkland MSD High School Killer Passed His Background Check. So Did 81% of Mass Killers Since 1998. What Does This Tell Us About Background Checks?

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

February 28, 2018

by Elliot Fineman

Founder and CEO

National Gun Victims Action Council  


The principle discussed below is part of a series excerpted from my book to be published in June 2018 about four simple steps to stop the totality of the gun violence epidemic now and keep our children safe. Note: the steps do not depend on asking/persuading federal lawmakers to do the right things––we know they won’t. The steps will FORCE them to.


Two things: 1) Background checks as they exist are seriously flawed. 2) While we need to have a background check for every gun sold, (currently that is not the case) We need a new type of background check––both expanded and comprehensive.


For the background check we conduct today, the name of a would-be gun purchaser is run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)––the database of prohibited purchasers maintained by the FBI. It includes, among others, felons, domestic abusers and people with adjudicated mental disabilities. If they are not on the list, they pass and can buy a gun(s); if they are on the list they cannot.


Sounds simple enough but the reality is the database is missing millions of records.


For example, 71 million mental health records of people with serious mental disabilities should be in the NICS database but as of June 2017, there were only 4.5 million. States do not have to submit any prohibited purchaser data and past programs to incentivize them to submit data have met with minimal success.


Further, due to HIPAA, patient confidentiality and the potential for reprisal lawsuits, it is not realistic to expect that all the names of people with serious mental disabilities would be entered into the database.

WHAT WOULD AN EXPANDED AND COMPREHENSIVE BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM LOOK LIKE? It is a fail-safe system we already use—and have used for decades—for the purchase, sale and transfer of machine guns. Controlled by the National Firearms Act of 1934 every machine gun is registered—and every current machine gun owner or would-be purchaser (or relative to whom the machine gun owner might want to transfer the machine gun including his children) must go through an expanded, comprehensive background check.


This includes having to submit fingerprints and a photograph which is kept on file, a criminal record check, examination of local records, interviews with local law enforcement, neighborhood, school and work place acquaintances as well as an interview with the would-be purchaser.


Machine guns have not contributed to the gun violence epidemic. The major reason is the requirement for comprehensive background checks which ensure that criminals and people with mental disabilities cannot own or possess them.


Further, because there is a federal registry of machine gun owners, should a current owner become mentally disabled, this would be known and their machine gun(s) removed by local law enforcement.


Today’s background check system is flawed. Conducting more of them will do little to halt the gun violence epidemic. We need expanded, comprehensive background checks for all gun sales—they work and are clearly constitutional.



Elliot Fineman holds an engineering degree from MIT and has served as a strategic marketing consultant to Fortune 500 companies including top corporations like Accenture, KPMG and the Boston Consulting Group. Following the murder of his son in 2006 by a paranoid schizophrenic who had legally obtained the gun, he founded National Gun Victims Action Council.


National Gun Victims Action Council (NGVAC) is a non-profit network of 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.


The NRA Thanks the Public for Its Short Memory

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015


Should People Who Hear Voices Have Guns? Yes Says the NRA

Monday, November 17th, 2014

After the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre in which 33 died, the National Rifle Association supported a federal law to make it harder for people with mental illness to get guns. Killer Seung-Hui Cho had been declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice but was still allowed to purchase guns because he was not institutionalized.



There was just one catch. The NRA’s support was contingent on legal provisions to restore “gun rights” to those who lost them for mental health reasons.

An early example of such restoration was Virginian Sam French who was hospitalized by court order four times in five years and told authorities he hears voices and talks to bears but got his guns back anyway according to the New York Times. Thank you, NRA

Even without the NRA’s quid pro quo, mechanisms to prohibit people with mental illness from buying guns are non-existent. A chilling map of how well states provide mental health records to the federal background check database shows that Oklahoma has provided 35 mental health records out of a likely 30,822, Montana has provided 3 out of a likely 8,125 and Louisiana has provided 4 out of a likely 37,207. No, the numbers do not come from the Onion.

And there is another problem. Without a national registry which the NRA has legally blocked out of fear of government “tyranny,” how is it ever known when someone who is a legal gun owner becomes mentally unstable? It isn’t.

In Chicago’s Cook County, more than 3,000 people failed to surrender their Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) cards last year after they were revoked, reported the Chicago Sun-Times. FOID cards allow someone to buy firearms and ammunition and are revoked for mental illness, felonies and protection orders. Yet often the firearms themselves are not confiscated. The system is “broken” says Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart–it “revokes cards, but the guns are of no consequence.”

Last year, reports the Sun-Times, Cook County law enforcement personnel recovered more than 35 firearms from one person whose card was revoked, including four AR-15 assault rifles. Hey, he had the right to defend himself.

Of course the U.S. mental health system is also broken said many speakers this week at a Chicago conference called “The Cost of Doing Nothing” sponsored by the Kennedy Forum. “If the nation wanted a good answer to Sandy Hook and Aurora” it would make a commitment to providing mental health care to any American who “suffers a psychotic break,” said former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy at the event. We are not doing “what we know works.”

Families are often “happy” to see the removal of firearms from people whose FOID cards have been revoked said Sheriff Dart at the conference. There is “widespread agreement” about the importance to public safety of removing guns from people who have become dangerous, he said. Recently, California passed the first “gun order of protection” law allowing imperiled families and other citizens to request guns removed from dangerous persons.

Clearly, missing state health records like Louisiana’s 37,203 are behind many mass shootings– the Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, Navy Yard, Aurora, Tucson, Santa Barbara, LAX and Fort Hood killers all bought their guns legally despite their mental health records.

But so are NRA sponsored laws that rearm people who hear voices and block a registry to know when gun owners have become mentally impaired! It is shocking but true–gun “rights” trump the occasional massacre to the NRA.





Join our action to tell corporate America to get off the “sidelines” and take a stand against gun violence including the “can’t miss” sniper rifle sold to civilians. When corporations want sane gun laws, we will have sane gun laws.

Follow us on twitter @GunVictimsAct and like our Facebook page