Ironically the tragic navy yard shootings in Washington, D.C. came just 48 hours after the long-awaited State House hearing on proposed changes to Massachusetts gun laws. While no single piece of legislation is going to be able to prevent such tragedies from happening again, there is room for improvement in our current laws, especially when it comes to background checks. What, if any, impact the D.C. rampage will have on changes to our own gun laws is not really known.
Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that does not require courts and state agencies to share mental health information through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NICS registry checks available records in three databases to determine if prospective gun buyers are disqualified. Massachusetts has no statutory authority to transfer mental health records to NICS. That means this information is not available during background checks when an individual goes to buy a gun from a licensed gun dealer. While this might sound alarming, there is a lot of apprehension about delivering personal information like mental health records to a federal database. There are legitimate concerns about accurate information gathering and questions about privacy surrounding the use of that information.
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