National mayors' coalition lays out problems in state background checks

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Charleston MayorJoe Riley and 800 other mayors are part of a coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The group was formed in 2008 by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and 14 others.

In 2007, chaos erupted on the campus of Virginia Tech and 32 people were shot and killed. A year earlier, a judge found the shooter to be mentally ill, but his records were never submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check.

In 2011, six people were shot and killed and 13 others were wounded, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, when a man opened fire at a public event. According to the coalition, the shooter was arrested previously on drug charges, but he still managed to pass background checks.

The same report published by the coalition says millions of records of the mentally ill and people with drug addictions are missing from the federal database because of insufficient reporting by state agencies.

South Carolina is included in the list of states that are not regularly reporting to the federal database.

"I would absolutely be in favor of doing something with it. I can't believe somebody in that state of mind can get a gun. I'm absolutely opposed to that. I'm in favor of the Second Amendment, but we have to have background checks and we have to have a good database," said state Rep. Joe Daning.

But according to the study put together after the Tucson shooting, South Carolina falls well short in reporting. As of October 2011, the state had sent only 17 mental health records to the NICS.

Part of the reason, according to the 65-page report, is because South Carolina lacks the funding to implement a mental health record reporting infrastructure.

The report places blame on South Carolina's state legislature for making no effort to pass a new law requiring record submission.

"I'm telling them the state of South Carolina needs an automated system of collecting data about people that have been adjudicated mentally incompetent so that it's available to those selling guns, it's available to our national government for them to put it in their database," said Riley on Friday.

Virginia leads the nation in mental health records reported to the NICS. Because of the state's efforts, lawmakers there were awarded a $750,000 grant to upgrade the state background checking system.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check was part of the Brady Bill established following the assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan.

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