Reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

Approved by Council, June 2013

AACAP is concerned about patient and public safety and supports reasonable and appropriate efforts to prevent violence. It is important to establish appropriate criteria to achieve this objective without inadvertently subjecting people with mental illness to further stigma and prejudice or inappropriately depriving them of their civil liberties. Policy must be guided by scientific evidence and with the confidentiality of the patient and public safety in mind. It must not inhibit individuals from seeking treatment for mental health concerns or exacerbate their mental illness.

Individuals with mental illness are far less likely to commit a violent act towards others than to be victims of violent act themselves, yet too often they are seen as the perpetrator. Research shows that only a small subset of people with mental illness may pose higher risks of violence. Predictors for increased risk of violence and victimization include a past history of violence and co-occurring use of alcohol or illegal substances. More research is needed on the causes of violence and ways to prevent it and to identify at risk individuals.

AACAP supports the current restrictions on the purchase of guns by individuals who have been adjudicated as mentally ill and found to be a danger to themselves or others, as determined by a court. Reporting of these individuals to the NICS should be done by the court system. Reporting requirements should not be based on an individual's diagnosis or time spent in a psychiatric institution. Reported information should not include the diagnosis or treatment received. Additionally, the information should be kept confidential and should be accessible only by appropriate law enforcement officials or the courts.

Individuals with mental illness may be temporarily impaired, but with proper treatment, they can and do recover, going on to live independently and productively. It is therefore important to establish a mechanism for an individual to petition the court to have their name removed from NICS on a determination by the court that they are no longer at increased risk.

Any information collected and reported to NICS should not automatically follow a juvenile patient into adulthood. When individuals reach 21 years, there should be a process of review for any listed individuals to determine if they should continue to be in NICS.