Legislation Would Ensure Names of Felons, Domestic Abusers, Mentally Ill Are Included in National Background Check Database
TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Barbara Buono and Nia H. Gill that would protect New Jerseyans by ensuring the certain court and mental health records are submitted to and made part of the national system for background checks utilized for gun purchases was approved Thursday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
“The terrible gun tragedies in Tucson and Sandy Hook underscore the importance of having accurate criminal and health records included in the system for background checks for gun purchases,” said Senator Buono. “This legislation will go a long way in promoting public safety by ensuring that the federal background check database matches our records to prevent those who are a potential harm to themselves or others from attaining weapons.”
The bill, S-2492, would require the New Jersey State Police, in cooperation with the Administrative Office of the Courts, to collect data of those who are prohibited from federal firearms ownership – as set by the US Department of Justice, such as those who have been involuntarily committed, felons and domestic violence abusers – and to submit the data to the FBI for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and created by the FBI in 1998, the NICS is a national database for federally-licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks on prospective gun purchases. The federal government updates the system using information supplied by the individual states.
Since 2010, the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts has been compiling a database of mental health records of individuals who have been involuntarily committed using federal grant money. So far they have inputted more than 350,000 records dating back to 1975 and have transmitted them to the FBI for inclusion in the NICS. In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, Glenn A. Grant, the acting director of the New Jersey court system, stated that more than 85 gun purchases have been denied based on these records. Currently New Jersey voluntarily participates in this program. This bill would codify the state’s participation and expand it to all records of those federally-prohibited from owning a firearm.
“In 2007, it was discovered that the Virginia Tech shooter had been declared mentally ill by a judge two years prior. Following that discovery, the federal government implemented a grant program to help states update and assemble records, both mental health and criminal, for inclusion in the federal background check database,” said Senator Gill, D-Essex and Passaic. “By expanding and codifying this program to include those who have acted out violently in domestic situations and those who are felons, we may be able to stop a deadly and tragic incident from happening here in New Jersey.”
Approved with a vote of 7 – 4, the bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.