Gun Purchases Denied for Mental Health Reasons Up Almost Sixfold

Melanie Arter | July 24, 2012 | 9:35am EDT
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(AP Photo)

( – The number of gun sales in the United States that were turned down for mental health reasons has increased by nearly sixfold over the last seven years, rising from 365 in 2004 to 2,124 in 2011, according to the Government Accountability Office.

“According to FBI data, the number of firearm transactions that were denied based on mental health records increased from 365 (or 0.5 percent of 75,990 total gun purchase denials) in 2004 to 2,124 (or 1.7 percent of 123,432 total gun purchase denials) in 2011,” the GAO reported.

From 2004 to 2011, the number of mental health records that states turned over to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) increased from 126,000 to 1.2 million, an 800 percent increase, the GAO found in a study released on July 16.

Licensed firearms dealers are required to contact the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to conduct a background check on potential buyers to determine whether the buyer is ineligible to purchase firearms.

Individuals convicted of a crime that carries a prison term of one year or more are prohibited from buying handguns, as well as those who are considered fugitives from justice, are judged mentally incompetent, have a history of domestic violence or have been convicted of using or possessing illegal drugs are among the federally prohibiting criteria.

Drug users are also considered to be prohibited from owning a gun, according to the NICS: “an unlawful user and/or addict of any controlled substance; for example, a person convicted for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past year; or a person with multiple arrests for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past five years with the most recent arrest occurring within the past year; or a person found through a drug test to use a controlled substance unlawfully, provided the test was administered within the past year.”

Also considered to be prohibitive to gun ownership according to the NICS are: illegal aliens, a person dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces, someone who has renounced his/her U.S. citizenship, “the subject of a protective order issued after a hearing in which the respondent had notice that restrains them from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such partner,” someone under indictment or information for a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than a year, and a person convicted of a misdemeanor which includes the use or attempted use of physical force or threatened use of a deadly weapon, and the defendant was the spouse, former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.”

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