The Associated Press is reporting that Texas Senator John Cornyn introduced legislation Wednesday, August 5, 2015, that would reward states for sending more information about residents with serious mental problems to the federal background check system for firearms purchasers.
The bill would also bolster programs for treating mentally ill people and handling confrontations with them.
By law, federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on firearms purchasers through the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (“NICS”) which is run by the FBI. Among those barred from buying guns are people legally determined to be “mentally defective” and those who have been committed to mental institutions. However, the law does not required states to send those records to the background check system, and therefore its database is lacking.
Cornyn’s bill would increase grants under the government’s main law enforcement program by up to 5 percent for states that send the federal system at least 90 percent of their records on people with serious mental problems. States providing less data could see their grants from a broad range of justice programs penalized by the same amounts, at the attorney general’s discretion.
The bill would give state and local governments more flexibility to use federal funds to screen for mental problems in prisoners and improve training for law enforcement officers and others on handling emergencies involving the mentally ill.
The impetus for this rare move by a Republican Senator to curb some gun purchases was sparked by the recent killings in a Louisiana movie theater by a gunman with known mental problems.
“Gaps in existing law or inadequate resources prevent our communities from taking proactive steps to prevent them from becoming violent,” said Cornyn, R-Texas, in a written statement.
The bill introduced by Sen. Cornyn is less restrictive than a bill introduced earlier this week. On Monday, a Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced legislation that would provide extra federal money to states that send a broad range of data on the mentally ill to the federal system, including information about the mentally ill, violent criminals and domestic abusers. Cornyn’s bill is backed by the National Rifle Association.
Is this bill a good idea? Or is it more of an unnecessary governmental intrusion on individual rights?