From the shooting at McKeesport, Pennsylvania on January 1, 2013, to the recent shooting at Parkland, Florida on February 15, 2018, the United States has experienced 1,624 mass shootings. On the average, that’s 4 or more people getting shot in one incident every 9 out of 10 days.
How can a developed nation experience such violence? There are many reasons. And part of the blame goes to the government’s flawed gun background check system. This system relies on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS which was created in 1998. The NICS was supposed to contain an exhaustive list of people who are banned from buying guns but it’s not working as it should. And this failure has cost the US hundreds of innocent lives.
Holes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
A 2017 study shows that 22% of US gun owners who acquired their guns within the past 2 years did not undergo any background check. This result is just the tip of the iceberg. Millions of US adults are still getting their firearms without background checks, especially in states that don’t regulate the sale of guns.
2. Failure to input/report people who are not allowed to buy guns in the NICS
Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman behind the First Baptist Church mass shooting in Texas was convicted in a court-martial while he was serving in the Air Force. If the Department of Defense reported this in the NICS, the background check system could have saved the lives of 26 people.
3. Slow response from the FBI
Legal gun dealers who did perform a background check don’t get a timely verdict from the FBI. And by default, they are allowed to sell the gun if they don’t hear from the authorities after 3 business days.
This three-day loophole in the system and FBI’s lack of promptness allowed people such as Dylan Roof — the gunman behind the death of 9 churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina — to legally buy a gun.
4. NICS is not a requirement for all states
States are not required by law to cooperate with the NICS. Despite the federal grant to encourage them, many states don’t submit names to the gun database. And if they do, they either give very little information or are very slow to provide updates. This incompetence poses serious security risks in the future.
5. Missing mental health information
A person’s mental condition can also be used to prevent someone from legally buying a firearm. However, most mental institutions and hospitals don’t contribute information to the NICS. And if they do, they do it in a less timely fashion.
This loophole allowed Seung-Hui Cho to buy a gun and kill 27 students and 5 teachers before killing himself at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia on April 16, 2007.
It’s not just the NICS that is flawed but also the people, agencies, stores, and institutions behind it. If only everybody did their part, the entire system could have prevented hundreds of deaths. Better systems and background checks won’t solve every problem but it would certainly make it more difficult for would-be attackers to purchase a weapon.
Author: Sarah Cooper studied human behavior when she was still in college. She managed to make her dream of becoming a human resource manager come true. Now, she works for works for RentPrep doing employment background checks, screening potential candidates using different communication mediums, and training an employee. Aside from that, she also writes articles as part of her hobby. She writes whatever she feels in connection with her work.