Everytown analysis shows increase in state mental health reporting

The number of prohibiting mental health records in the federal background check database has increased, but several states are still not submitting all of their documents, according to an analysis of FBI data released Thursday by Everytown for Gun Safety.

There are eight states – Alaska, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming – that have submitted less than 100 of their records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Despite the arguably low level of compliance by these states, Everytown said the number of total prohibitive health records submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation increased by 5 percent during the last six months of 2014.

There were 161,877 records submitted by 43 states and Washington D.C. during that period, bringing the total number mental health documents provided to the federal database to almost 3.6 million.

The group argues that when states submit records of mental health to the FBI, it can prevent someone who shouldn’t have a gun from legally obtaining one.

“The background check system is the single most important tool for stopping dangerous people from buying firearms and reducing gun violence” said Ted Alcorn, Research Director for Everytown for Gun Safety, in a statement. “Every new record in the system is a win for public safety, and it is a little-heralded success that states are finally stepping up and closing these fatal gaps. But there is still more work to be done to ensure that every prohibiting record is in the system – it’s long past time for the eight states that are still failing to submit records to fill the fatal gaps in the database.”

Everytown created an interactive heat map illustrating these “fatal gaps,” which tracks every state’s progress in submitting their records.

Due to a law passed recently in South Carolina, that state saw the largest increase in records submitted during the six-month period, bringing the total number of state records held by the FBI to 70,829, Everytown said.

On the low end of the scale is Vermont, with only 24 mental health records submitted to the FBI. Everytown claims the state needs to submit more than 5,000 of its records to join the best-performing states.   

Gun control opponents often point to Vermont’s low crime rate as an argument against the need for a federal background check system.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation goes a step further, calling the system burdensome and slow, but it ultimately is in agreement with Everytown about the need to keep guns away from the mentally ill.

Jake McGuigan, NSSF’s director of government relations and state affairs, told Guns.com in an email the group is dedicated to keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who shouldn’t have them. He accused Everytown of gunning for universal background checks in Vermont, where the NSSF helped push legislation to ensure the state’s compliance in submitting its records of individuals federally prohibited from owning firearms.

Gun owners tend to recoil when the term universal background check is mentioned, partially because it’s often undefined and sometimes comes with legislation imposing restrictions on individual transfers of firearms.

“Will intra-family transfers be included? Gifts between friends? Inherited firearms? A loan of a firearm to a hunting buddy during a hunting trip?” the NSSF’s FixNICS website reads.

Taking effect Oct. 1, S.141 replaced universal background checks in Vermont and should ensure Vermont is in compliance, McGuigan said.    

“While Vermont has the lowest crime rate in the nation improving the reporting will ensure that our retailers can feel confident in transferring a firearm to an individual,” McGuigan said.