Gaping hole exposed in U.S. firearms application form

If the 26 killed Friday morning in Newtown Conn. leave behind one legacy, it's the push for increased gun control.

Politicians have taken to Capitol Hill this week brain-storming new bills, as more than one million Americans have bought new weapons for protection.

The problem of enhanced safety is complex and seemingly beyond repair, but there are sound suggestions coming from both sides of the aisle.

For one, a gaping hole exists in the National Instant Criminal Background System, known as NICS for short. The electronic database is used during each and every over-the-counter firearms purchase in the United States.

"We have to make sure the people buying these firearms are not prohibited, that the background checks are done properly, that there's no malicious sales at our business and that we know our customer as well as we can," Midwest Gun Exchange owner Brad Foster said.

During lunch hour Tuesday, it was hard to find a parking spot, let alone flag down an associate at Foster’s Grape Rd. location in Mishawaka.

"As a company we've had multiple meetings, we've shut down phone lines, we've come in early and we've left late,” Foster, a father of a four and eight-year-old commented.

The added effort is not proactive, but rather reactive. Since news of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting first broke, firearms sales have increased by 600 percent. In other words, Midwest Gun Exchange has been selling more than 1,000 guns a day, many to first time buyers.

"They're used for collection, personal protection, target practice, they're used for hunting. This person [Adam Lanza] just happened to steal these firearms and kill 26 people,” Foster remarked.

The problem, many gun activists like Foster say, isn't the Second Amendment, but NICS. The six-page federal document poses prospective gun owners with a litany of question including former felony convictions, citizenship status and mental history. While it is quite simple to verify the first two subcategories, because of stringent healthcare privacy laws, there's no system in place to flag inaccurate reporting of mental illness.

"You could have someone under the current NICS background check system that has been in a mental institution or been to some therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist that will not show up as a prohibited person based on the current background system,” Foster added.

In November, watchdog website studied 61 mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years. Its study found 80 percent of the killers purchased their own weapons, legally. The study further discovered 38 of the 61 assailants showcased signs of mental illness like acute paranoia, delusions and depression, prior to their respective attacks.

James Holmes, 25, who stands accused of killing 12 and injuring 58 others at an Aurora Colo. movie theater, met with three mental health professionals at the University of Colorado prior to the July 2012 attack.

Jared Loughner, 24, the gunman who shot 19 people at a Tucson, Ariz. strip mall in Jan. 2011, including former U.S. congresswoman Gabby Giffords, long displayed signs of mental illness. Those signs included outbursts during his high school years. With a substantial amount of facts already gathered, a similar background appears to be taking shape in the life of Adam Lanza, 20.

"We're finding three consistent traits, they're psychopath, they're sociopath, or they've had some form of trauma early on in their life. When they're filling-out the paperwork and they say ‘No I've not been adjudicated mentally defective’, then there's absolutely no background check system for that,” Foster reiterated.

Although the mental illness loophole remains wide open, there's already been significant transformation in reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The NBC Sports Network announced Monday it would indefinitely postpone broadcasting any firearm competitions. Discovery Channel took matters one-step further, cancelling its reality series American Guns, after two successful seasons. On the retail front, Dicks Sporting Goods suspended the sale of all modern sporting rifles across its more than 400 American locations. At the store closest to Newtown, Conn., the retailer pulled all firearms merchandise from its shelves.

On Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed gun legislation that would have allowed concealed weapons in churches, schools and daycare centers. This as Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell expressed support in allowing teachers to be armed. No legislation allowing such action has been passed in either state though.

U.S. Representative and Senator-elect Joe Donnelly weighed in on the matter of gun control himself:

"Friday's tragedy in Newtown is heartbreaking, and my family and I continue to keep the victims and their families in our prayers. Now is the time to work together to make sure this never happens again. All parties must come to the table as we determine the appropriate action to address this extremely concerning problem of senseless violence."

And following an uncharacteristic veil of silence, the National Rifle Association finally released a public statement Tuesday afternoon:

“The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again. The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21. Details will be released to the media at the appropriate time.”

To review the U.S. Department of Justice's "Firearms Transaction Record -- Over-the-Counter Form" for yourself, click on the document attached to this story.

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