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Gun Control: Sharing Promising Practices and Assessing Incentives Could Better Position Justice to Assist States in Providing Records for Background Checks

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2012
61 pages
This study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office examined potential practices for use by the U.S. Department of Justice to assist States in providing records for firearm-related background checks.
This study found that between 2004 and 2011, 12 States increased the total number of mental health records that they made available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by almost 800 percent while almost half of all States increased the number of mental health records they made available by fewer than 100. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) provides grants and training to assist State efforts in sharing mental health records, and encourages States to share promising practices that have enabled them to overcome technological and legal challenges to the dissemination of these records. The study also found that most States were not sharing unlawful drug use records that were not associated with an arrest or a conviction, and that some States had concerns about sharing records outside of an official court decision. As part of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act (NIAA) of 2007, DOJ can administer rewards and penalties to encourage States to provide noncriminal records to NICS. These provisions have not been implemented due to limitations in States' estimates of the number of records they possess that could be made available to NICS. In addition, the study found that DOJ had not yet obtained States' views on whether or not the reward and penalty provisions provided enough incentive for States to increase their efforts to make more records available to NICS. Recommendations for ensuring the effective implementation of NIAA are discussed. Tables, figures, and appendixes