Mental Health in a Background Check

When is giving out certain pieces of information too much? In the case of Wisconsin, the state wasn’t adding mental health history to its background checks, like many other states have been doing since 2007. A federal law, as explained in the article under the link, specifies that mental health history should be shared with authorities to be included in a background check. This way, those who aren’t stable mentally would be prevented from owning any type of fire arm. The law, additionally, defines mental stability as anyone who has been committed to a mental institution or who, by court, has been declared mentally defective.

This law has been in effect since 2007, but this year isn’t a coincidence. That year, the Virginia Tech massacre occurred and, after 32 people died from a gunman with an unstable mental history, federal lawmakers reconsidered their policies on medical records pertaining to mental health. Recently, Wisconsin didn’t provide that information in all background checks given for firearms and the information regarding mental health wasn’t added to any state databases. Going back to 2007, even the laws in Virginia didn’t pick up on the gunman’s mental history in favor of a speedy process.

Another issue not addressed in regards to background checks and mental health is the ability for someone with questionable mental health history to bypass the background check system completely and, instead, head for the black market or gun shows that don’t check its buyers. This goes to show that anyone going to a gunshow could, in theory, be the next shooter in a school massacre and no one would know because a background check wasn’t conducted. Although background checks are always described as being “time consuming” and “costly,” wouldn’t you rather spend the money to make sure that everyone in attendance at the gun show can purchase a firearm?