Idaho Mental Health Records Now Included in Federal Gun Database

March 28, 2014 in News

Idaho now is providing mental health records to an FBI database in an effort to improve background checks for individuals purchasing guns, the AP/Washington Times (AP/Washington Times, 3/27).

Background on Federal Database

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is used by gun dealers to ensure they are not selling weapons to individuals who are prohibited from owning firearms, such as people with substance use disorders and those with severe mental health issues (iHealthBeat, 1/6).

In 2012, Idaho was one of 17 states that had submitted to the database fewer than 10 records of individuals who are prohibited from owning a firearm for mental health reasons, according to a 2012 Government Accountability Office report (Gene Smith, Twin Falls Times-News, 3/27). 

Idaho’s Efforts To Submit Data

Idaho State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Identification did not start transmitting such information to the federal database until 2012.

States were required to begin submitting information to the federal database in 2009. However, the Idaho police department was not permitted by state law to obtain and electronically transmit firearm eligibility statuses to the FBI until 2010, and the state did not fund and construct the electronic transmitting system until 2012, the Twin Falls Times-News reports

In 2012, the federal database accepted just 2,500 records submitted by Idaho’s police department, while rejecting more than 17,000 records from the state (Twin Falls Times-News, 3/27). The records were rejected because of:

  • Data entry problems; and
  • Other system incompatibilities.

Idaho has since switched its mental health background check system to the federal system and cleared out a backlog of old records, enabling Idaho’s police department to update the federal database as soon as new mental health records are created (AP/Washington Times, 3/27).

In addition, Idaho’s police department is nearly finished double-checking about 20 years of older records of individuals committed involuntarily to mental health institutions in an effort to ensure that the data are correctly entered (Twin Falls Times-News, 3/27).

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