Every Missing Record Could Potentially Result in Tragedy, As Occurred at Virginia Tech; See Fatal Gaps Heat Map Detailing State Records Here
NEW YORK – New FBI data released today by Everytown for Gun Safety shows that Wyoming is one of just four states across the country that continues to fail at submitting records of dangerously mentally ill people who are prohibited from owning guns to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Wyoming has only submitted four records in total since NICS was established more than 20 years ago, leaving potentially fatal gaps in the system designed to keep guns out of the hands of the people with dangerous mental illness. Today Everytown updated its online Fatal Gaps heat map, an interactive tool that tracks each state’s progress.
Each record submitted is critical for public safety – just a single gun sale to a dangerous person could potentially lead to tragedy. The shooter at Virginia Tech in 2007 had a mental health history that prohibited him from possessing firearms, but he was able to purchase a gun because his records had not been submitted, and he was able to pass a background check as a result.
“Across the country, states have taken steps to strengthen their background check systems and keep guns out of dangerous hands,” said Ted Alcorn, Research Director for Everytown for Gun Safety. “Sadly, New Hampshire is one of just four states that continues to lag considerably behind, leaving fatal gaps in the system and putting its citizens at risk.”
Beginning in 2009, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, now a part of Everytown, devoted time and resources to raising awareness of these fatal gaps and offering policy recommendations for addressing them. You can find more information about each state’s performance on Everytown’s online Fatal Gaps heat map, an interactive tool that tracks every state’s progress.
State Mental Health Record Submissions, By the Numbers
- In the last six months of analyzed data (June 2015 through December 2015), states submitted 193,541 mental health records to the background check system.
- Controlling for population, the largest increase in records came in Iowa (+296 records per 100,000 residents), West Virginia (+252), and New York (+205).
- Since the shooting at Sandy Hook, the number of states that have each reported fewer than 100 records has dropped from nineteen to four. But the following states have still reported fewer than 100 mental health records to NICS:
- Alaska (93 records submitted)
- Montana (3 records submitted)
- New Hampshire (2 records submitted)
- Wyoming (4 records submitted)
Today’s release is part of Everytown’s longstanding commitment to chronicling gaps in the background check system. In November 2011, the organization released Fatal Gaps, the first report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns that detailed how missing records in the background check system allowed people with dangerous mental illness like the 2007 Virginia Tech gunman to pass background checks and buy guns. That report put forth measures states could initiate to improve their reporting systems. In May 2014 Everytown released a follow-up report Closing the Gaps documenting the progress states had made. Since the first release of Fatal Gaps 10 states have amended existing laws to get more records into the system and 12 states have passed new record-sharing laws, with New Mexico doing so most recently.
- Alaska (93 records submitted)