Our view: Strengthened background checks victory for state, but bill could have gone further

2014-05-07T00:00:00Z Our view: Strengthened background checks victory for state, but bill could have gone furtherArizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 07, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed into law House Bill 2322, which institutes the automatic transmission of Arizona court rulings related to mental health to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

We applaud the Legislature and Gov. Brewer for doing their parts in helping keep guns away from people with mental illness serious enough to have been declared incompetent or a danger to self or others.

Mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check database was created to block gun sales to potentially dangerous individuals, including those convicted of a felony, drug abusers and people with serious mental illness.

But according to a 2011 report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, states and federal agencies have fallen short in submitting records regarding serious mental issues and drug abuse problems that would disqualify many from being able to legally purchase a gun.

Records show that as states improve their reporting, the effects are immediately noticeable. In 2006, only 405 gun sales nationwide were declined for mental health reasons, a figure that grew to more than 6,000 by 2010.

Arizona was labeled in the report as one of the worst performing states when it came to sharing mental health records with the NICBC system. HB 2322 will go a long way to improving the state’s standing and protecting the public — but it could have done more.

Although HB 2322 was almost unanimously approved by legislators and was supported by the National Rifle Association and the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association, as originally introduced by Mesa Republican Rep. Justin Pierce, it ran into opposition from gun groups.

Initially the bill went beyond reporting on people declared mentally incompetent or incapacitated by the courts and also submitted information to the NICBC system of individuals charged with certain firearms and domestic violence offenses.

Gun advocates bristled at the fact that it would block people who had been charged — but not convicted — of a crime from legally buying a gun. But the bill also guaranteed, as it does now with those adjudicated with a mental illness, that any change in status would prompt a removal of their name from the federal database.

Keeping guns away from those charged in domestic violence, even if temporarily, seems like a reasonable measure. It is unfortunate the Legislature chose to back down.

But when it comes to gun control, victories — small or large — mean the difference between life and death. So while a diluted version of this bill is a missed opportunity, it more than deserves to be celebrated.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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