Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has sent every governor in the nation a letter asking for support in improving background checks for gun purchases.
The shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, was able to purchase a gun because information about his mental health was not available. Virginia had been providing information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, but due to uncertainties in the law, the state was not submitting information on those voluntarily admitted to a treatment facility, but were required to receive outpatient treatment. That was changed after the shooting.
“The commonwealth of Virginia continues to be a leader in submitting information,’’ McDonnell wrote. “I would encourage you to evaluate your state’s reporting of mental health and other critical information to NICS, and take any required action relating to that reporting to prevent tragedies such as the shooting at Virginia Tech from happening again.”
A spokesman for McDonnell, who supports gun rights, said he sent the letter after hearing from family members of the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings.
He asked the governors to provide information to the NICS, which is required to be used by federal firearms licensees to determine whether a potential buyer is eligible to purchase a gun or explosive. In the last decade, more than 100 million checks have been made, leading to more than 700,000 denials
Lori Haas, whose daughter, Emily, was injured at Virginia Tech , said that many states do not report to NICS.
Twenty-three states and the District have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records to the federal database, according to a November 2011 report, “Fatal Gaps by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.” Seventeen states have submitted fewer than 10 mental health records, and four states have not submitted any records.
Forty-four states have submitted fewer than 10 records about the use of controlled substances, and 33 have not submitted any records, according to the report.
“In the days and weeks following the tragic events of April 16, 2007, Gov. McDonnell, then serving as attorney general, and then-Gov. Tim Kaine worked together to increase and improve Virginia's reporting to the NICS,’’ McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. “The governor strongly supports this very effective program, but knows that its effectiveness depends entirely on the quality and scope of the data going into the system. This letter was meant to encourage all states to participate in this information reporting and sharing.’’
In January 2008, President George W. Bush signed a law that sought to address the gap in information available to NICS.