Local Lag in Mental Health Reporting for Gun Database

D.C., Maryland rank 30th, 31st in nation

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    Maryland and D.C. fall behind national average in reporting mental health and drug problems to database used for gun sales.

    A new report out Monday shows that two local governments are lagging far behind the rest of the nation in reporting mental health issues and drug abuse to a national database used to assess gun buyers.

    Mayors Against Illegal Guns looked at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to see how many mental health and substance abuse records each state submitted since the system was created in 1999. The District has only submitted 80 mental health records and Maryland has only submitted 58. Neither has submitted any substance abuse records.

    By contrast, the national average is 22,961 mental health records submitted and Virginia has submitted more than 160,000.

    The national check system is critical in upholding a federal law which prohibits those who are seriously mentally ill or abuse drugs from owning firearms. But without states reporting records to the database, gun dealers have no idea whether a potential buyer may have a history of drug abuse or mental health issues.

    These gaps in reporting have received a brighter spotlight in recent years after the Virginia Tech shooting which killed 32 in 2007 and the Tucson, Arizona shooting that killed six and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The shooter in the Virginia Tech tragedy was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment in 2005, but his records were never turned over to the background check system. And Jared Loughner, the man accused of the Tucson shooting, had a history of drug abuse.

    "A variety of legal and policy barriers appear to hinder the submission of robust mental health information to the NICS," David Cuthbertson, an assistant FBI director, said in testimony to a Senate subcommittee last week according to the Washington Examiner.

    The Examiner reports that Maryland has a working group that is looking at the state’s technology and information-sharing laws. The District only submits mental health record for people that are committed to treatment in criminal court because of city privacy laws.