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 today by the full Senate.
“Both the federal and state governments have put in place commonsense laws that keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals, working to keep tragedies such as Tucson, Arizona or Newtown, Connecticut from occurring,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “This legislation will ensure that New Jersey is providing information to the FBI so the federal background check database includes mental health and criminal records of those who could be a harm to themselves or others.”
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 the aftermath of mass shootings that have shocked our nation, we more often than not discover that the perpetrator was suffering from a mental illness or was a convicted criminal and should not have had access to a firearm,” said Senator Gill, D-Essex and Passaic. “New Jersey has made significant gains, through a federal grant, to update and assemble records, both mental health and criminal, for inclusion in the federal background check database. This act ensures that those records continue to be updated and submitted to the FBI and that guns stay out of the hands of dangerous individuals.”
The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 36-1. It now heads back to the Assembly to concur with amendments before heading to the Governor’s desk.