Justice Department Funds Will Improve Brady Background Checks

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Peter Hamm,
Communications Director
Doug Pennington,
Assistant Director: 202-898-0792.

Justice Department Funds Will Improve Brady Background Checks

WASHINGTON - The U.S.
Justice Department’s announcement yesterday of almost $17 million in
grants to eight states to improve their Brady background check systems
were made possible by legislation passed by Congress in December 2007 and signed by President George W. Bush in January 2008
following the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007.  A number of
families affected by those shootings personally urged enactment of this
law, along with the Brady Campaign.

Although
a Virginia court had found him to be dangerously mentally ill, the
Virginia Tech shooter passed two Brady background checks because
Virginia had not submitted the appropriate record to the FBI’s National Instant Check System (NICS).

Seven
of the eight states (Idaho, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon,
Texas, and Wisconsin) that were announced as grant recipients yesterday
had submitted very few records of mental health adjudications to the
NICS at least through November of 2008, according to an update the
Justice Department released to the Brady Campaign in January 2009. Only
Florida, which receives a $3,159,228 grant, had submitted a significant
number of those records since 2001.  The other seven states receiving
grants had submitted fewer than 40 records combined as of November 2008.

“We commend the Justice Department for getting critical funds
to these states to improve their Brady background record submissions. 
States overall have done a very poor job of submitting records of
dangerously mentally ill persons who shouldn’t be allowed to purchase
firearms,” said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign.  “As a
result, dangerous people who shouldn’t pass Brady background checks to
purchase guns are passing those checks and getting armed.”

Since
the Virginia Tech shootings, 12 states - Arkansas, Illinois, Maine,
Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas,
Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin - have enacted legislation to
improve their reporting.  Two Governors - Virginia’s Tim Kaine and
Maryland’s Martin O’Malley - have signed executive orders to improve
their states’ performance on record submission.  Six states submitted a
large number of records to NICS in either 2007 or 2008: Arizona,
Connecticut, Georgia, Missouri, and Ohio, as well as Florida.

In
2009 $10 million was appropriated by Congress, but only three states -
Nevada, New York and Oregon - qualified for grants, totaling just over
$2.5 million.

The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
was championed by New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy long before
the Virginia Tech tragedy.  It gives states funding incentives to
improve record submission to the Federal National Instant Criminal
Background Check System so that people prohibited from purchasing
firearms will not be able to pass their Brady background checks.  After
the Virginia Tech tragedy, Representative McCarthy, joined by U.S.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), successfully pushed bills through the
House and Senate with broad bipartisan support.

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The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and its legislative and grassroots affiliate, the Brady Campaign and its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, is the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence.

We are devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.

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