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Via the Examiner, the District joins 23 states which don’t send many records of the mentally ill and substance abusers to a national database that prevents people with mental health issues from buying guns:

[The National Instant Criminal Check System] has about 1.3 million mental-health records in total, but 23 states and the District have each submitted fewer than 100, the report found.

Federal law prohibits people who are seriously mentally ill or drug abusers from owning firearms. Without the state records in the NICS database, it’s impossible for gun dealers to know whether a buyer has is barred from owning a weapon because of mental illness or substance abuse.

The gaps in the background check system have come under fire in the wake of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech and the January shooting in Arizona that left six dead and critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Virginia Tech gunman Seung Hui Cho was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment in 2005, but his mental health records were never submitted to NICS. Jared Loughner, the alleged Tucson shooter, had a history of drug use but passed a background check.

The District cites privacy laws as the reason it doesn’t submit more mental health records. Neither Maryland nor D.C. submit substance abuse records. Meanwhile, Virginia has submitted 161,344 records to the database, coming in third in the country.

Photo by Flickr user Kevitivity under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license