Bill Aims to Block Gun Buys by Mentally Ill

A new bill just introduced in the U.S. Senate aims to keep guns out of the hands of people with serious mental problems. The bill, introduced Wednesday by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, would give states financial rewards for sending into the federal background check system more information about people with serious mental health issues.

The NRA backs the bill, while gun control advocates say it would do little to keeps guns out of the wrong hands because it doesn’t change anything about online gun sales or those at gun shows.

It’s already illegal for people who are legally determined to be “mentally defective” and those who’ve been committed to mental institutions to buy guns, but states are not required to send that information into the FBI’s background check system. Under Sen. Cornyn’s bill, states would get up to five percent more money in law enforcement grants if they send at least 90 percent of their records on people with serious mental problems into the federal system. States that don’t could see their grants cut by the same amount.

South Carolina already has a similar law, passed in 2013, after Alice Boland tried to shoot a school official in Charleston. Boland had a gun and pulled the trigger but it didn’t fire. She had a history of mental problems but that information had not been sent into the background check system, so she was allowed to buy the gun. That law created a database of people who’ve been judged “mentally defective” or who’ve been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC’s 6th District, says of Cornyn’s bill, “Oh I think it has a chance, but I don’t think it will solve the problem unless he’s dealing with the completion of the background check.”

Clyburn is sponsoring a bill in the U.S. House that would require a background check to be completed before someone can buy a gun legally. He introduced the bill after it was discovered that Dylann Roof, who’s charged with killing nine people in a Charleston church, bought the gun while a background check was still being done. Under current law, if the FBI hasn’t rejected the sale within three days it can move forward, even if the background check is still being completed.


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