Social Policy & Politics Program | Report

Missing Records: Holes in the Background Check System - How They Allow Illegal Buyers to Get Guns

by Jim Kessler

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An updated look at the problems with the nation’s firearms purchase background check system.

This report, issued in the wake of the nation’s worst-ever mass shooting at Virginia Tech, updates a 2002 look at the records in background check system. We conclude that the system has improved in the last five years, but as evidenced by Seung-Hui Cho’s ability to pass two firearms purchase background checks, major holes remain. For example, 91% of those who should be barred by virtue of their mental illness (like Cho) are not in the system.