SIOUX FALLS, SD -
In 1998 the FBI launched the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. This database is designed to prevent anyone with a history of mental illness from being able to purchase a gun.
It was recently reported that eight states have not been actively submitting names to the database. South Dakota is one.
Each state is responsible for submitting the names of illegal immigrants, felons, fugitives, abusers, drug addicts and the mentally ill.
"Not reporting on mentally ill in South Dakota is probably not necessarily a thought-out choice. I don't think we necessarily say we definitely don't want to report how many mentally ill we have in South Dakota. I think it's just, if it's not required, if it's not mandated, we're not going to step forward and do it," Representative Paula Hawks said.
Hawks believes this issue goes hand-in-hand with other hot topics in the state legislature right now.
"Especially in light of the gun issues that we're going to have this year, I think it's incredibly important that we understand what those statistics are and that we know what we're dealing with so that we can make informed choices and understand the legislation that we're talking about," Hawks said.
While Hawks is not aware of any official talks at the state level to start sharing names with the database, she does believe it would make sense with current reform talks.
"It is something that I hope we would take a closer look at. We're really looking at this justice reform, criminal justice reform. And if we're really going to talk about reforming our justice system, we really need to talk about the mentally ill factor and take a look at how that affects gun violence, how that affects any kind of violence, how it affects just crime in general," Hawks said.
According to the FBI, more than 1.8 million people have been banned from buying guns because of mental health reasons.
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