There’s been a lot of fast talk about creating a national database of persons with mental illness without much thought or consideration. Advocates for a database – primarily the National Rifle Association and their ilk – were significant opponents to the creation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which collects information about persons who are not eligible to own or purchase a gun and provides that information to some gun sellers.
Federal law prohibits the following sorts of persons from possessing guns. In bold is the definition of persons adjudicated with mental illness (1,821,217 persons at the end of 2012, 21.88% of the total). The NICS is the national list of these persons.
- A person who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year or any state offense classified by the state as a misdemeanor and is punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than two years.
- Persons who are fugitives of justice—for example, the subject of an active felony or misdemeanor warrant.
- An unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance; for example, a person convicted for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past year; or a person with multiple arrests for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past five years with the most recent arrest occurring within the past year; or a person found through a drug test to use a controlled substance unlawfully, provided the test was administered within the past year.
- 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.
- A person who, being an alien, is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.
- A person who, being an alien except as provided in subsection (y) (2), has been admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa.
- A person dishonorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces.
- A person who has renounced his/her United States citizenship.
- The subject of a protective order issued after a hearing in which the respondent had notice that restrains them from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such partner. This does not include ex parte orders.
- A person convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime which includes the use or attempted use of physical force or threatened use of a deadly weapon and the defendant was the spouse, former spouse, parent, guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited in the past with the victim as a spouse, parent, guardian or similar situation to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim.
- A person who is under indictment or information for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
Note below which states do – and which do not – choose to participate. Who knew state participation in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System was voluntary?
Thirteen states have agencies acting on behalf of the NICS in a full Point-Of-Contact (POC) capacity. These POC states, which have agreed to implement and maintain their own Brady NICS Program, conduct firearm background checks for FFLs’ transactions in their respective states by electronically accessing the NICS. Upon completion of the required ATF Form 4473, the FFLs conducting business in the POC states contact a designated state agency to initiate a NICS background check in lieu of contacting the NICS Section.
Additionally, eight states are currently sharing responsibility with the NICS Section by acting as partial POCs. Partial-POC states have agencies designated to conduct checks for handguns and/or handgun permits, while the NICS Section handles the processing of the states transactions for long gun purchases. The NICS Participation Map, as illustrated below, depicts each state’s level of participation with the NICS.