Even though the White House describes it as the “most important tool” for stopping gun crime, the $650 million National Instant Criminal Background Check System “is failing to keep guns away from the dangerously mentally ill,” according to a News21 investigation published by Philly.com. The main problem, explains News21, is that people diagnosed with mental illnesses do not often commit violent crimes, and mental health professionals and courts cannot accurately predict who might become violent.
“Every one of the country’s mass shooters since January 2009 could have slipped through NICS, according to a July 2014 study by the gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety,” writes News21. “In 12 out of the 110 incidents identified by Everytown, the shooters had demonstrated some evidence of a mental illness, but there was no evidence that any of them had been mentally adjudicated or involuntarily committed for treatment.”
“The ability of mental health professionals to pick out who’s going to be violent, it’s not much better than a coin toss. It’s a needle in a haystack,” a medical sociologist who studies the intersection of guns and mental illness told News21. “To focus only on mental health is misguided.”
“It’s really casting a very wide net to try to find a few people, which is largely an impossible task,” the head of forensics at the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services told News21. “It’s not really a good public health measure. We really need to find a better way of doing this.”
Background checks failing in mission (Philly.com, August 26, 2014)