What is the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011?

Proposed by the Senate, the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 provides better definition of those who are “mentally defective,” specifies background check policies for dealers, and introduces reporting laws for states. A response to the recent Tucson shooting, the Fix Gun Checks Act essentially introduces stricter standards for obtaining a firearm.

The full bill linked above is lengthy. Instead, here are some of the basic points and changes:

• Individuals who should be prohibited from buying firearms must be listed in the national criminal background check system, and states are required to report all individuals to the national database. If states do not provide this information, they will face penalties, such as withheld funds from the government.
• Background checks will be required for every sale.
• “Mentally defective” encompasses all individuals ordered by court, commission, or another authority in regards to “subnormal intelligence,” mental illness, or “incompetency.” Individuals classified as such need to receive counseling, medication, or testing.
• Schools need to assist students with mental health services.
• The bill clarifies who is considered a drug abuser.
• Transferring firearms from one individual to another is illegal.
• All licensed dealers are required to run background checks on every buyer.

Although appearing effective, this bill is vague on a few points. First, what happens if a state never submits information to a national database? Will they simply face ongoing fines?

Second, what types of services are available for those who need counseling or other psychiatric evaluation? Mental health therapy is not cheap, and even those with health insurance find it expensive. How will the government know individuals of “subnormal intelligence,” mental illness, or “incompetency” are seeking out and using mental health services?

Third, what about unlicensed dealers? Related to the Tucson shooting is the gun show loophole. If an unlicensed dealer is selling firearms, how will anyone stop him from selling to mentally defective individuals or drug addicts?