South Carolina's failure to report, as well its and other states' lack of law to ensure NICS compliance, only compounds the problem. While federally-licensed gun dealers are required to comply with NICS, states aren't required to provide the records that NICS needs to determine if purchasers are ineligible.
Even if state compliance with NICS improved, unlicensed dealers at gun shows don't have to proceed with background checks prior to sale, which allows the mentally disturbed and even people convicted of violent crime to buy weapons on the spot.
This doesn't mean that NICS is dysfunctional. In a 12-year period ending in 2010, it had blocked 6,103 firearm sales to persons with recorded mental illnesses. That's nine needed denials every week despite the very low record of state compliance in reporting.
But if it was completely honored as intended, think of how many lives could have been saved, like the 32 at Virginia Tech in 2007. And maybe -- just maybe, since early reports say the weapons were licensed to Lanza's mother -- the 26 lost at Sandy Hook Elementary, which was the seventh incident of mass shooting this year. (Another shooting occurred the very next day in Alabama, bringing this year's total to eight. It could have been nine, but an attempt in Oklahoma was thwarted the day before the Connecticut tragedy.)
The laws pertaining to gun purchases need to be improved. Remember, restrictions are only applied if a legal ruling on one's mental incapacity has been issued and recorded -- and only if that legal ruling gets reported to NICS -- and only if the seller is a federally-licensed dealer.
Why is it so hard to stop it from being so easy for an incapable person to get a weapon? We have many other laws pertaining to qualifications and registrations and authorizations, and which are regularly enforced for public safety.
In order to get a driver's license, for example, I had to complete driver's ed. And then I had to take a written test, a driving test and even a vision test, all of which I have to periodically do all over again just to make sure I still know the laws and can still safely operate a vehicle.
My license can be suspended if I break too many driving laws. I need special license to operate commercial vehicles of particular size, and there are some, like combat vehicles, that I could never own or operate.
Even my car is subject to regulation. It must be of a minimum safety standard (although South Carolina doesn't, most other states require annual review of individual vehicle safety compliance). I also need minimum insurance.
To own a gun, though, I don't need tests or training to ensure my proper use. No license, unless I want a concealed-carry permit. No periodic license renewals or reviews to make sure I'm still eligible and capable throughout my ownership. No periodic review of my weapon's safety, no insurance required to cover any damages I might cause, and I can even own many military firearms.
I only need to pass an initial screening of very incomplete records.
And since those records are so poorly maintained, not to mention irregularly reported to NICS, I'd have little to worry about even if a judge had ever ruled me incompetent.
As for the guy who requested the trust fund to pay for a weapon, and for the modification to his wheelchair which he hoped would make him capable to use that weapon? The advisory board never approved it, even though there was no law against him or any other physically-incapable person from having a gun. From what I recall, the applicant was told it wouldn't meet intended goals of the trust fund, and he didn't contest.
I wish it could be so easy to prevent mentally-incapable persons from getting a weapon, too.