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GAO: Improvements Can Be Made With Background Checks, Gun Control

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GAO says states struggle to connect domestic violence with gun control

Recent analysis from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) found that better analysis of available data could potentially help improve background checks for attempted gun purchases by those with domestic violence records.

The GAO analyzed FBI data from 2006 through 2015 on domestic violence records that states submitted to the FBI, and found holes in connecting the dots between domestic violence offenses and purchasing guns. That is, while most of the 50 states submit domestic violence records to the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for use in background checks, states vary in efforts to identify or flag domestic violence records in a way that could potentially prohibit a prosecuted individual from obtaining a firearm.

Most states, the GAO noted, do submit items like misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV) convictions and domestic violence protection orders for us in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), but there is a missing link between these submissions and furthering gun control efforts on domestic violence offenders.

Efforts vary by state

Efforts regarding the flagging of domestic violence offenders varied by state, the GAO said.

For example, 22 of 50 U.S. states participated in a program on a voluntarily basis that worked to "identify criminal history records that prohibit individuals from obtaining firearms." Those with domestic violence records would fall into this category.

Also, 47 states had worked to expedite NICS checks by highlighting or flagging domestic violence protection orders that prohibit firearm purchases, as this type of flagging is not currently automated.

Thousands of guns issued

According to the GAO, more than 6,700 firearms were transferred to individuals with prohibiting domestic violence records from 2006 to 2015. The majority of these cases were then referred to the DOJ's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for firearm retrieval.

Federal law states that gun dealers are legally allowed to transfer a firearm to an individual if the dealer has not received a response (from a background check request) from the FBI within 3 business days.

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Matt Mills Matt Mills has been involved in various aspects of online media, both on the editorial side and on the technology side, for more than 16 years. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and is currently involved in multiple projects focused on innovation journalism.