Potentially Deadly Loophole In Gun Application Process - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Potentially Deadly Loophole In Gun Application Process

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Could a more thorough background check have prevented the Virginia Tech shooter from ever getting his hands on weapons?

Midstate gun proponents admit there's a potentially deadly loophole in the gun application process.

Gunman Seung-Hui Cho had been branded "mentally ill" and court ordered to seek treatment.

That information should have shown up on the federal gun application when he bought two guns.

Had the Virginia Tech shooter answered "yes" on line 11-F of the application, "the gun dealer should have stopped the transaction at that point," said Doug Woodlee of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Every gun buyer is supposed to fill out the federal form. Answering line 11-F, which addresses a person's mental stability, relies largely on the honor system.

"On the form where it says, 'Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective?' He should have said yes, which immediately would stop the sale of the gun," said Dan McGlamery of Gun City USA.

In Tennessee, the TBI screens every person buying a weapon. But two things are off limits- medical and mental records- thanks to strict laws that safeguard the patient.

"To protect the integrity of their medical information. To protect their privacy and their confidentiality of their medical information," said John Howser, director of media relations and assistant director of news and public affairs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Just as laws precluded Virginia Tech from sharing Cho's apparent instability with his own parents, laws and patients' rights tie the hands of background researchers, too.

"Yes, it's very frustrating because we know there's got to be thousands of persons who have some type of a problem that really should preclude them from being able to get a firearm," Woodlee said.

Woodlee said in a perfect world, a mentally unstable person would be flagged in a background check.

Even the staunchest gun proponents admit something needs to be done to close the loophole on the gun application, which allows potential gun buyers the luxury of lying.

There is a federal database of people who've been diagnosed "mentally defective" by the courts, as Cho had been. But, the problem is, it's usually not current.

States offer that information to the federal government on a voluntary basis.

Even Wednesday night, police in Virginia still had no idea why Cho picked the 32 victims he did.

They can't find a link between the shooter and his first victim in a campus dormitory.

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