Only 17 New Jerseyans would fail a federal background check to buy a gun because of mental illness, records show. By comparison, in New York, which is roughly twice the size of New Jersey, 187,000 people would be banned from purchasing a gun due to mental illness.
These numbers, as of last October, show that even as the U.S. Senate prepares to take up legislation next month to include private sales among the types of gun purchases that require a background check, there remains great variation among states on the submission of mental health records to the federal background database.
A bill from state Assembly Democrat Pamela Lampitt of Cherry Hill would change that. Her legislation, which passed the Assembly Feb. 21 and is expected to receive consideration in the state Senate next month, would make submission of these records mandatory.
“Clearly, there needs to be greater coordination in incorporating mental health records into the background check process,” Lampitt said. “If states fail to do so, the database will have incomplete or inaccurate records, allowing some individuals to purchase guns who should be prohibited.”
Even the National Rifle Association — which opposes expanding background checks — says there are too many holes in the system.
“We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed. We have no national database of these lunatics,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre told NBC after December’s mass shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. “Twenty-three states are still putting only a small number of records into the system, and a lot of states are putting none.”