June 21, 2007
Atlanta (AP) -- U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said today the deadly rampage at Virginia Tech in April highlights the need for states to provide better information on their mentally ill residents to a national crime database used to screen gun buyers.
Gonzales was speaking to the National Association of Attorneys General in Atlanta. He says only 23 states give the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System data on those with mental illness that would disqualify them from buying a gun. He says for the so-called NICS system to be effective, the FBI needs more information from the states. He says the information has to be timely, accurate and complete.
The House of Representatives approved a measure last week that would require states to automate their lists of convicted criminals and mentally ill people, who are prohibited under a 1968 law from buying firearms. They would then have to hand those lists over to the FBI.
Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg before taking his own life. He had been ordered to undergo outpatient mental health treatment and should have been barred from buying the two firearms he used in shooting.
But the state of Virginia never forwarded the information to the national background check system.
Gonzales did not take questions after the speech.