APPLETON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin lags behind the top-performing states in the number of mental health records it submits to a national database used for background checks on gun purchases.
But the state has made substantial gains in the number of mental health records it submits to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the Post-Crescent reported (http://post.cr/1129jge).
According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin had submitted 10,871 mental health records to the NCIS through December 2012. Wisconsin submitted only about 6,000 as of Oct. 31, 2011, according to the November 2011 report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a gun-control advocacy group founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
To be on par with the best-performing states, the study determined Wisconsin would have to submit more than three times as many more records. There is wide variation among states in submitting mental health records to the national database, according to the report.
The records gap came into sharp focus when it was learned a Virginia judge had declared Seung Hui Cho mentally ill two years before he walked onto the Virginia Tech campus in April 2007 and fatally shot 32 people and wounded 17 others.
The court record on Cho had never been entered into the national database, enabling him to pass background checks to buy the guns he used in the deadliest shooting incident by a lone gunman in U.S. history.
The case sparked Virginia to close loopholes in its law, and it led to the passage of a federal law to strengthen the mental health record reporting system. Also, 18 states, including Wisconsin, amended their laws to require the submission of mental health records to the NCIS.
Four years after the Virginia Tech shooting, four states had submitted no records, 17 had submitted fewer than 10 and 24 had submitted fewer than 100 records to the NCIS, according to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns report. A 2012 update found there has been some improvement.
"It's clear that some states are doing better because they're doing things that matter," said Mark Glaze, executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. "Delaware passed laws, and its performance improved overnight. The state of Pennsylvania clarified what their obligations are. As states focus on problems, you'll see some of the states that have done an exceptionally poor job at this" start to improve.
Information from: The Post-Crescent, http://www.postcrescent.com