Why Jared Loughner was allowed to buy a gun
Despite evidence that Arizona shooting suspect Jared Loughner is mentally unstable, he was never declared mentally unfit by a court, so his name did not appear in the federal background-check database used by gun sellers.
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There is no known record that a court had ever declared Loughner mentally unfit or that he had ever been committed to a mental institution.Skip to next paragraph
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Changes since Virginia Tech
But even if that had been the case, there’s no guarantee that Loughner’s name would have appeared in the national database. Some states have been slow to report names that belong in the “do not sell” list, even after Congress passed a law in 2007 aimed at punishing states with inadequate compliance records and providing incentives to states with good reporting records.
The law passed after the Virginia Tech shooting that year, in which a mentally ill student killed 32 people. In 2005, a judge had declared the shooter, Seung Hui Cho, a danger to himself and ordered him into psychiatric care. But Mr. Cho was still able to purchase two semiautomatic handguns, because his name did not appear in the NICS database.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reported last Friday, the day before the Tucson shootings, that between Jan. 1, 2008, and Aug. 31, 2010, the number of disqualifying mental illness records submitted to NICS by states and territories had more than doubled – from 402,047 records to 929,254. Adding federal records brings the total to nearly 1.1 million.
But the Brady campaign argues that “millions of relevant records” are still missing from the system. The National Center for State Courts and SEARCH, the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics, estimate that the NICS Index should contain more than 2 million disqualifying mental illness records, according to the Brady campaign.
In the wake of the Arizona tragedy, advocates of gun rights maintain that additional gun control is not the answer to preventing future violence.
"We have state and federal laws on the books that already prohibit persons who have been deemed mentally insane from owning and possessing firearms," Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I don't think we're going to legislate our way out of the risk associated with people who are insane or people who are bent on performing evil acts to kill another person."