Handgun and bullets

(Jefferson City) -- A southwest Missouri trial lawyer says the federal background check system used for firearms sales is flawed.

During a hearing before an interim Missouri Senate committee studying the state’s gun violence problem, Craig Heidemann of Springfield, says Missouri is not providing mental health information to the database, to keep guns away from unstable people.

“If your goal is to understand the relationship between mental illness and the acquisition of firearms, you better make sure, respectfully, that we are reporting our mental health data to the Fix NICS computer system. Otherwise, background checks are going to do nothing,” he says.

A 2018 federal law is intended to penalize government agencies for not reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Heidemann, who is also a federal firearms dealer, says the feds give more grant funding if states share 100% of their criminal and mental health information in the database.

He says the NICS system is only as good as the data that is put into it. Heidemann wants lawmakers to require that correct information is entered into the system.

“I had a client come in to purchase a firearm and he says ‘Man, I’ll tell you what, I’m sure surprised I passed that background check. I acquired all of my other firearms before I had my felony conviction,” he says.

Convicted felons are not allowed to have guns.

The Senate committee is charged with making recommendations for the 2020 legislative session beginning in January.