In Firearms Debate, Checking Background is Often the Common Ground

A debate at a legislative committee public hearing in Worcester…

A debate at a legislative committee public hearing in Worcester between Gun Lobbyists and Gun Control activists reached common ground, over the importance of mental health records to background checks.

Proponents from both sides emphasized to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security that Massachusetts is one of only seven states failing to submit its mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Checks database.

Angus McQuilken, of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said mental health background checks are especially critical in preventing suicides, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of U.S. firearms deaths.

“Records from public hospitals are available to law enforcement for background checks, but records from private hospitals are not,” McQuilken told CommonWealth during the hearing. “State law currently treats those records as being confidential, even for purposes of background checks … We are required under federal law to share that data with NICS, and we’re not doing that,” he said, adding that states like Virginia have fixed their system to ensure compliance with the NICS. “If they can do it, we can do it.”


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