August 16, 2012
FAMILIES OF VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS OF THE VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTING JOIN MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS TO “DEMAND A PLAN” FROM THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES TO FILL GAPS IN NATIONAL BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM THAT ALLOW DANGEROUS PEOPLE TO ACCESS GUNS
Mayors Against Illegal Guns Launches Interactive Map Showing States Still Fail to Submit Millions of Mental Health Records to the National Do-Not-Sell Database – Even After Latest Series of Mass Shootings
48,000 Americans Will Be Murdered with Guns in the Next President’s Term – If Washington Fails to Act – www.DemandAPlan.org
Sixty-seven family members of victims and survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting today sent a letter to President Obama and Governor Romney demanding they develop a plan to fix the broken U.S. background check system that regularly allows guns to be sold to dangerous people, including the shooters at the Virginia Tech and Tucson mass shootings. To highlight the continued failure of states to report mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition simultaneously launched an interactive map revealing how many mental health records states have reported and how far behind some states are compared with the best-performing states. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have shared fewer than 100 records with NICS. The map is available at http://www.demandaplan.org/fatalgaps and a full copy of the letter is available at http://www.demandaplan.org/vtletter.
In their letter, more than five dozen Virginians affected by the shooting ask the presidential candidates whether they support measures requiring a criminal background check for every gun sale and how they will work to ensure that all records of prohibited purchasers are included in the national background check system. According to a recent poll by Frank Luntz for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners support requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun. In 2007, Seung Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech after passing two gun background checks because Virginia state agencies never shared his mental health records with the national database of prohibited gun purchasers. After the shooting, Virginia substantially improved its reporting and now boasts the highest mental health record reporting rate in the nation.
The letter is part of a larger campaign by survivors of gun violence and the 700-member Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition to demand that the presidential candidates offer specific plans explaining how they would address the fact that 48,000 Americans will be murdered with a gun in the next president’s term if they fail to take action. More than 150,000 supporters have signed their petition, available at www.DemandAPlan.org.
“The families of the victims and survivors of Virginia Tech have waited long enough for our nation’s leaders to spell out concrete plans to prevent gun violence,” said Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “More than 40,000 background checks for gun sales and permits are run every day in this country – but the system can’t save lives if states don’t hold up their end of the bargain and report the records of seriously mentally ill people who are not allowed to buy them. The system is broken. Every missing record is a tragedy waiting to happen and it’s time for Washington to compel all states to submit the records that are necessary to make the system work. Our public safety depends on it.”
“One of the missing records in the system could have prevented the Virginia Tech shooter from getting his hands on a gun that killed 32 people,” said Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “In the five years since the massacre at Virginia Tech, the Commonwealth of Virginia has done its part to step up reporting to NICS – other states should not wait for the same kind of tragedy in their own communities before making it a priority to keep guns away from those who shouldn’t have them. The family members and survivors of the Virginia Tech, Tucson and Aurora shootings – and all Americans – deserve immediate action to prevent these tragedies and the 34 American gun murders that tear apart communities every day.”
The interactive map, based on the most recently released FBI data, allows users to see how many mental health records their state has reported and how their state is doing relative to the top-performing states, after controlling for population. The number of gun background checks conducted in each state in 2011 is also included to show how many checks were run against the incomplete database. Twenty-one states and D.C. have reported fewer than 100 mental health records – putting their communities at significant risk: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.
The map builds upon the Mayors’ 2011 report “Fatal Gaps: How Missing Records in the Federal Background Check System Put Guns in the Hands of Killers” – a first-of-its-kind analysis revealing how millions of records identifying seriously mentally ill people and drug abusers never enter the NICS database because of lax reporting by states and federal agencies. The 50-state analysis also identifies factors that have helped some states successfully share their records with the federal database.