A new law takes effect today aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of the seriously mentally ill. The state will now begin sending more information to a national criminal background check database.
Anyone who wants to buy a gun from a gun store must submit to a background check. Store owners run the buyer’s information through a few national databases, including the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Until recently, Rhode Island shared only criminal records with NICS.
A state task force is calling for a change in Rhode Island law, saying the state should contribute mental health records to a national background check database called NICS. The firearms safety task force says Rhode Island should provide records only in limited cases in which a person is involuntarily committed by the courts and poses a significant risk of violence.
Records would not be submitted for people determined to pose only a low risk of violence. And the task force says the state should avoid providing any specific information about a patient's diagnosis.
Is Rhode Island taking steps to join NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System? Perhaps. The General Assembly has passed legislation authorizing the creation of a 20-member task force to explore the "intersection of behavioral health and firearm safety." Here's what it means.