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Want a Gun? No Problem

While people may differ on whether or not individuals should have access to guns, no one wants convicted criminals to have them. However, since the creation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS), administered by the FBI to screen firearm sales, 10,000 people who are not allowed to own guns have bought them, according to the Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms? own statistics. The NICS fails to identify people who are prohibited from acquiring guns because the states aren't required to computerize their criminal records and send them to NICS.

The Brady Act of 1994 forbids felons, drug addicts, spousal abusers, illegal aliens and fugitives from buying guns. Prior to the creation of the NICS, background checks were done manually and took over a week to complete. The NICS has computerized criminal records from the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and state and local agencies, reducing the time it takes to check your right to own firearms to a few minutes.

But these records aren?t complete because states arent? required to put felony conviction, domestic violence and mental health records onto a computer or transmit them to the NICS database. Texas is the state where the most guns have been sold to people prohibited from buying them, with 1,142 sales. "Such a program would require legislative authority to be established, hire personnel and charge fees," says David Gavin of the Texas State Patrol. "The Texas legislature has not created such a program." Texas, Alabama, Ohio, Arkansas and Louisiana together sell 35% of the guns acquired by criminals, according to Americans for Gun Safety.

Since 1995 the federal government has given state governments $3.5 million to put their paper files onto computers so they can be uploaded to the NICS. But only 25 states have more than 60% of their records computerized. Seven million criminal records are not electronically accessible. Another 16 million are in state databases, but aren?t instantly available for NICS checks.

"If the records are not in a national system, then a person can still buy a gun. Because the records are housed only in the state's database, then the buyer can travel outside of the state to purchase a gun," says Lisa Vincent, of the NICS. The Our Lady of Peace Act, which is supported by the National Rifle Association and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), which directed the Justice Department to collaborate with states to develop protocols for electronically transmitting criminal records to the NICS, recently stalled in the House. McCarthy?s assistant Cecelia Prewett says, "The reason the bill didn't pass the Senate had a lot to do with November's elections and the threat of terrorism."

Be safe?stay home and read. Have fun with Whitley?s vampires in Lilith?s Dream, The Hunger and The Last Vampire.

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