Pa. shares thousands of mental health records with national gun background check database

Two years after Mayors Against Illegal Guns ranked Pennsylvania one of the most uncooperative states when it comes to sharing mental health records with the national database against which gun sale background checks are conducted, state police last week opened the floodgates.

Pennsylvania State Police sent more than 643,000 records from the state background check database regarding residents who have been diagnosed with a mental illness or committed to an institution, according to multiple reports.

“After years of red tape, Pennsylvania officials have taken a big step toward keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns Mark Glaze said in a statement.

Before the data dump, state police had submitted merely one prohibited purchaser’s mental health record to the national system.

According to the 2011 Mayors Against Illegal Guns report, that was in part because the mental health rules prohibiting Pennsylvanians from purchasing guns are more stringent than those observed federally and the state had not determined how to screen and share only those records that would preclude firearms purchases under national guidelines.

Following a long and apparently unfruitful wait for federal clarity, state police reportedly decided to share all of the mental health records available to them.

“In the nearly two years since we published our report, we’ve seen a renewed focus on ways to prevent people who have been judged a danger to themselves or others from obtaining dangerous firearms,” Glaze said. “We applaud the Pennsylvania State Police for cutting through the bureaucratic obstacles and putting the safety of American citizens first.”

The move will help ensure that those who are denied firearms in Pennsylvania won’t be able to get them in places where background checks are conducted using the federal database only.

“We know that guns used in crimes have often crossed state lines and until now, people who were adjudicated mentally ill in Pennsylvania could simply purchase guns in another state,”
said Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray, state chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

“This is not going to solve the illegal gun problem by itself, but it will make it harder for dangerous people to buy guns and use them to harm others.”