Federal officials say the FBI’s database of people prohibited from purchasing firearms works only if it has “complete, accurate and timely information.” Mental health records are a key prong in the system. Three states – New Hampshire, Montana and Wyoming – still refuse to submit them, USA Today reports. As U.S. Senators iron out gun reform initiatives, Republicans like Texas Sen. John Cornyn have repeatedly pointed to laws aimed at sopping people with criminal records or mental health challenges from obtaining firearms. Cornyn backed a 2018 bill that sought to shore up the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) after a Texas church shooting left 27 dead. The fatalities included the gunman, an Air Force airman whose criminal record that would have barred him from purchasing guns had not been submitted to NICS. “For years, agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” Cornyn said while hailing the “Fix NICS” bill that pushed for faster and more accurate submissions. “Just one record that’s not properly reported can lead to tragedy.”
President Trump signed that bill, which has pumped $615 million into states to close loopholes and shore up reporting to the FBI's system. States have made significant progress reporting into the database of 26 million records, including for 6.9 million people found by a judge to be mentally ill. Without state laws mandating participation, Montana and Wyoming have submitted 36 and 17 mental health records respectively. New Hampshire has submitted 657. By comparison, Hawaii – with about the same population as New Hampshire – has submitted nearly 10,000 mental health records. Records from the three states’ government-run mental health facilities show that many hundreds more people have been involuntarily committed – all of whom should have been submitted into NICS. Efforts to broaden background checks to be “universal” – applying to private sales – have failed to pass at both state and federal levels. Gun rights lobbyists and gun safety groups both have coalesced around strengthening NICS.