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SEARCH/NCSC Report Examines State Progress in Reporting Mental Health Data for Firearm-Related Background Checks


mental-healthIn the past decade, states have made vast progress in providing firearm-prohibiting mental health data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Index, according to a new research report coauthored by SEARCH.

NICS is used by Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to instantly determine whether a prospective transferee is eligible to receive firearms and explosives.

If a transferee has a record in one of the purchase-prohibiting categories, the firearm transfer is denied.  One of the prohibiting categories is mental health data—according to the FBI, this data applies to “A person adjudicated mental defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution or incompetent to handle own affairs, including dispositions to criminal charges of found not guilty by reason of insanity or found incompetent to stand trial.”

The report notes that the NICS Index more than 3.8 million state-submitted mental health records as of July 2015. Authored by staff of SEARCH and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), the report:

  • provides an overview of legislation and reporting mechanisms for mental health information
  • describes challenges states face in reporting, and strategies states have implemented to address these
  • includes data that illustrates the improvements in the past decade.

SEARCH and NCSC prepared the report under funding from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.

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