In the weeks after the Tucson shooting, gun control and the gun show loophole have been two subjects discussed on state and federal levels, particularly how mental health records are used and reported and why background checks are not required at most gun shows. For the latter, states make laws requiring background checks in these instances, and Arizona Senator Steve Gallardo recently proposed a bill requiring background checks for sales at in-state gun shows. In addition to the recent shooting, Mayor Bloomberg of New York released a video of undercover agents in Arizona purchasing guns at a show without background checks – and admitting they couldn’t pass.
Influenced by these two recent incidents, Senate Bill 1586, if passed, would make selling a gun at a gun show to anyone that does not pass a background check a Class 1 misdemeanor. Gallardo’s goal, as the StatePress.com piece linked above explains, is to close the loophole before another mass shooting.
The bill, however, has opponents. Many argue that such a bill restricts the rights of lawful citizens. But, without screenings, who can be defined as a “lawful citizen” and as a “criminal”?
Gun shows are not the only loophole for firearms, however. We discussed a few weeks ago about reintroduced legislation for gun shows, but the sale of guns on a national level needs to be reexamined, particularly with the role of background checks and mental health.
Those deemed mentally unfit cannot purchase firearms but such a status is based on a background check that includes mental health. The standards for “mentally unfit” are fairly high and not every state reports this information to the National Instant Background Check system, which appears to be the case in New Mexico and 10 other states. As another gun control loophole, no national law requires states to report the mental health information of its citizens to a gun registry, but at the same time, federal law prohibits any dealer or person from selling or transferring firearms or ammunition for any “mentally unfit” individual.