Gaps and missing data: the gaps in the gun background check system

New York.- The bipartisan gun control bill being discussed in the Senate these days relies heavily on a bureaucratic workhorse brawny, but riddled with pitfalls familiar to any American who has recently purchased a firearm: the system. federal background check.

Two of the most significant reform measures being discussed in response to the Buffalo and Uvalde massacres, the inclusion of juvenile records in background checks and new restrictions on purchases by a broader range of domestic abusers, they depend on the efficient operation of the verification system that is run by the FBI and is already dealing with a huge increase in the demand for weapons.

“Almost everything they are doing depends on this system. It’s the foundation,” said Mark Collins, a senior official at Brady, the arms control group that played a central role in creating the system in 1993. “The foundation has problems.”

The National Instant Background Check System — three gigantic interconnected databases containing state and federal records collectively called “NICS” — is an administrative marvel, even its critics admit. In 2021, the system processed 40 million firearms transactions, 88 percent of them in a few minutes, and blocked hundreds of attempted purchases per day by people with criminal histories, mental health issues, drug dependency, or other factors that make them unsafe. prevented you from buying a gun under state or federal law.

Yet for all its strengths, the system was designed nearly three decades ago to operate at a fraction of its current capacity. It operates with serious built-in limitations inserted by the gun lobby, which pushed to speed up gun sales, inserting a provision allowing arms dealers to give buyers their guns if an investigation is not completed within three business days. .

And while all 50 states participate in the system, it’s still technically voluntary, so the federal government has no authority to order states to provide any records, or dictate a timeline for data delivery. Many law enforcement officials believe this has contributed to persistent gaps in the system that have been associated with several high-profile mass murders and many other less publicized crimes.

Records about a buyer’s domestic violence, juvenile justice and mental health history are among the most difficult to track, collect or even define, according to people who have studied or worked with the background check system.

The legislation being considered would, for the first time, open access to juvenile delinquency and mental health records to shoppers ages 18 to 21. But it could take years to establish protocols for states to hand over their data, reflecting the chronic challenges of collecting reliable mental health records.

Leave a Comment