- Associated Press - Friday, May 2, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A trade association for firearms manufacturers and retailers is lobbying Wyoming and other states to report involuntary mental health commitments to a federal database that produces background checks for gun purchasers.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, based in Newtown, Connecticut, wants Wyoming to report all involuntary commitments to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It says it’s responding in part to recent mass shootings in in which mental illness may or was determined to have been a factor.

“There are a lot of individuals who have involuntary commitments, who have pleaded guilty by way of insanity, that aren’t included in the system,” said Jake McGuigan, the foundation’s director of governmental relations and state affairs. “And the last thing that we want to have happen is having prohibited people gain access to firearms.”

Whether the effort will succeed in Wyoming is open to question. A bill to require reporting failed in the Legislature this year. The Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee reconsiders the issue May 12.

The proposal mirrors efforts by gun control organizations such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns. But it’s opposed by some gun rights groups.

Anthony Bouchard, director of the Wyoming Gun Owners Association, said he opposes reporting as a step toward restricting gun rights - a common criticism among many gun rights groups.

“Once we have registration in place, confiscation’s next,” Bouchard said.

Since 1968, federal law has banned people involuntarily committed for mental health reasons from owning guns.

But according to the foundation, Wyoming and 11 other states have each submitted fewer than 100 mental health records since the database was created in the late 1990s. Some states say doing so could violate patient confidentiality laws.

The FBI says more than 100 million firearm purchasers have been run through the system in the last decade, leading to more than 700,000 denials for reasons that include mental health issues and felony convictions and mental health issues.

Lindsay Nichols, an attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco, said many people involved in mass shootings have been able to buy guns because states failed to report. Nichols cited the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting in which student gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed 33 people.

“That’s undisputed: the Virginia Tech shooter was prohibited from having guns and he was able to pass the background check because the state of Virginia hadn’t properly reported his record,” Nichols said. But she added that about half the states have since passed laws that require or authorize the disclosure of that information.

“It’s been shown in many of the recent incidences involving mass shootings that in many of those situations, those were people that were suffering from some type of mental illness,” said state Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, whose reporting bill died this year.

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