In Wake of Va. Tech Massacre, DOJ Upgrades List for Background Gun Checks

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Progress comes slowly, but the Justice Department is making strides in increasing its records of mentally ill individuals to aid in background checks during firearms purchases, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Thursday.

In a speech at the National Association of Attorneys General meeting in Utah, Mukasey announced that since the Virginia Tech shooting in April, the FBI has doubled the number of records of people with mental-health problems for its gun background-check system.

According to the department, the figure has grown from 174,863 to 393,957, in large part because of the addition of 200,000 records from California. Ohio also boosted its records from just three in March to 7,845.

While state records are still sometimes incomplete, 32 states are now submitting mental-health information to the FBI, up from just 23 in June. The figures for four of the 32 states are not included in the present total because of missing information.

Though Mukasey applauded states for their cooperation, he implored them to assist further. "For this system to be most effective ... it is essential that all states submit, or make available, appropriate information about people," Mukasey told conference attendees, according to a prepared copy of his remarks.

A recent government report pointed to the gaps in the records of the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System as key problems.

—Emma Schwartz