Shooting at Virginia Tech Effects Change for Hoosiers
December 31, 2009 by Mary L. DePrez
In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting tragedy, on April 16, 2007, Congress passed the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (“The Act”). The Act gives states greater incentives to submit records to the FBI regarding individuals who are prohibited from purchasing firearms. Representative Vern Tincher, a retired Indiana State Police officer from Terre Haute, sponsored the legislation inspired in part because of this new federal law that eventually became House Enrolled Act 1428, signed into law on May 15, 2009, by Governor Mitch Daniels.
Public Law 110-2009 became effective on July 1, 2009, and requires the Division of State Court Administration (Division) to establish and administer an electronic system for: (1) receiving information that relates to certain individuals who may be prohibited from possessing a firearm; and (2) transmitting this information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for inclusion in NICS. The law requires courts that have made a finding concerning a person’s mental health that disqualifies the person from possessing a firearm under federal law to transmit certain information regarding this finding to the Division of State Court Administration for transmittal to NICS.
On November 13, 2009, the Division’s Judicial Technology and Automation Committee (JTAC) sent notices to all of Indiana’s trial court judges and clerks that they could begin to input mental health adjudication data into a new INcite (Indiana Court Information Technology Extranet) software application. A court is now able to electronically send information to the Division of State Court Administration when the court determines that:
- an individual is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled, and the individual is then temporarily (more than 72 hours) or regularly committed to an appropriate facility;
- an individual has been found not responsible for a crime by reason of insanity;
- an individual is found guilty of a criminal act but is mentally ill; or
- a defendant in a criminal case lacks the ability to understand the proceedings and assist in the preparation of a defense;
The Division, then, transmits this information to the FBI.
A number of state agencies worked together to ensure that Public Law 110-2009 was implemented throughout Indiana. The initiative was funded by a grant from the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), administered by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. The Division of State Court Administration, through JTAC, worked with the Indiana State Police, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, Homeland Security, FSSA’s Division of Mental Health, and the Indiana Judicial Center to help create a system that promotes Indiana’s compliance with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. By so doing, Indiana continues to demonstrate its commitment to keeping firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.
This is another example of how JTAC is using technology to provide Indiana judges and clerks with the tools necessary to allow them to comply with those laws that ensure the timely determination of a person’s eligibility to possess firearms. Legislation like this has been passed to improve our national security and to enhance the public safety of citizens throughout the country. The software used in this project will send critical information from the courts, via the Division and the Indiana Data Communication System (IDACS, maintained by the Indiana State Police), to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC). This information is then available to all states seeking prior clearance of individuals who desire to possess or purchase a firearm.