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The Daily Tar Heel

N.C. Guns Records Top List

The report, titled "Broken Records," was released Jan. 16 by the Americans for Gun Safety Foundation. It used information from the Department of Justice and other state sources.

The study found that almost 10,000 people across the nation purchased guns as a result of faulty record keeping and gave failing grades to 22 states, claiming they have inadequate criminal, domestic violence and mental disability records.

The report stated that North Carolina adequately automated 94 percent of its felony and domestic records. North Carolina was ranked the highest, with a B+ grade.

But the report criticized North Carolina for not reporting mental health records to national or state background check systems.

Philip Cook, professor of public policy studies at Duke University, said it was a good sign that North Carolina led all states, but that there is still much improvement to be made.

"I think it's a step in the right direction to make sure criminals are not able to buy guns legally," Cook said. "But most of the time, criminals get guns at gun shows, by theft or through the black market, which are all out of the reach of the law."

The study reported that North Carolina allowed 355 illegal buyers to purchase firearms in the last two years.

David LaCourse, public affairs director for the Second Amendment Foundation, said he believes the study is inaccurate and inflated the number of people who purchased firearms illegally.

He said that in some cases the person who purchased the gun simply had the same name as a felon.

According to the study, state agencies are responsible for approving or denying gun purchases under the Brady Law.

Each state is also required to compile felony conviction, mental disability and domestic violence records for use by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

"Because states have failed to computerize many of these records, thousands of prohibited buyers have been able to obtain guns even after undergoing a background check," the report states.

In the report, the AGSF urged the U.S. Congress, governors and state legislatures to improve the automation of records that are necessary to deny illegal buyers access to guns.

The report also requested that the mental health community supply mental health records to the database.

The study also encouraged gun dealers to deny firearms purchases until a disposition record -- a court's final determination of a lawsuit or criminal charge -- is obtained.

The study also advocated that states institute a "don't know/don't sell" policy to extend the length of time it takes to complete a background check.

But LaCourse said extending the waiting period is not the solution.

"The issue is to fix the records, not create a system to cover them up," LaCourse said. "If the records are not automated, then they should be."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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