Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Langevin, Cicilline Call for Stronger Background Checks

Improved Record Sharing Would Fill Critical Information Gaps in National “Do Not Sell” Database

WASHINGTON, DC - Rhode Island Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and David Cicilline (D-RI), who both serve on the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, described a Federal Bureau of Investigation report, released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, as a call to action. The report illustrated Rhode Island’s failure to submit health records of individuals barred from purchasing handguns to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Rhode Island ranked among the lowest-performing states in the country, submitting fewer than 100 mental health records since the inception of the database under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act twenty years ago.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 requires an individual to pass a background check through the NICS database before purchasing a firearm from a federally licensed dealer, a process that typically takes 90 seconds. Data released last month by the FBI, reflecting record submissions as of May 2013, shows that the NICS remains incomplete, with hundreds of thousands of state and federal records missing. According to the report, the omission of mental health records in the NICS has created dangerous information deficiencies.

“This is an opportunity to educate ourselves on the deficiencies that exist within the NICS and strengthen gun violence prevention efforts in our state.  It is critical that we take meaningful action to fill these information gaps and create a more effective background check process,” said Langevin. “I strongly believe that Rhode Island can strengthen its reporting requirements in a manner that respects the balance of privacy and public safety.”

Rhode Island law currently prohibits the disclosure of mental health records without the express permission of the patient or guardian.  State lawmakers created a 20-member task force to examine Rhode Island’s participation in the NICS and make recommendations to the General Assembly by January 31.

“As a founding member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, I strongly believe that commonsense measures, like improving the NICS database, are the best methods to strengthen gun violence prevention in Rhode Island and around the country,” said Cicilline. “Congress needs to work with states to increase measures, like background checks, that protect the public from violence, and I am committed to continue working with the delegation to bring federal resources to improve reporting and bridging the information gaps in these requirements here in our state.”

Earlier this year, Langevin and Cicilline announced the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force’s comprehensive policy principles designed to reduce gun violence while respecting Second Amendment Rights of law-abiding Americans. The Congressmen cosponsored the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act (HR 1565), a bipartisan bill that brings all commercial firearm sales under the background check system to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from slipping through loopholes that endanger public safety. Langevin and Cicilline have urged their colleagues in Congress to support this legislation, and other efforts to strengthen funding for mental health and addiction treatment, recognizing the important role these factors play in the conversation on gun violence prevention.