Courtesy Dean Weingarten

The National Instant Check System, NICS, started operation in 1998. The first numbers that I found available for ‘mental defectives’ were contained in an annual report listing numbers available at the end of 2000. The first 89 thousand people on the list were submitted by the Veterans Administration. In the next report, at the end of 2002, about another 60 thousand individuals had been added from state data bases. In 2004, NICS listed the ‘mental defective’ definition as this . . .

Mental Defectives/Commitments – Persons who have been adjudicated as a mental defective or have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution or have been deemed incompetent to handle their own affairs. (This definition is established by 27 C.F.R., §478.11.)

In 2013 NICS lists ‘mental defectives’ as:

Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;

It is hard to know if the change in definition is substantive or not. This is only from the FBI NICS annual report, but the statute cited in 2013 had changed to 18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (4) instead of the previous 27 C.F.R., §478.11.

The Obama administration put forth a trial balloon to include four million Social Security recipients in the ‘mental defective’ category of the NICS index. That trial balloon was withdrawn after the strong public protest that followed.

The NICS index is one of four databases that the FBI checks when doing a background check. Most of the felony convictions are in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) data base. Here is the explanation of the four data bases from the FBI report in 2013:

The FBI developed the NICS through a cooperative effort with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Department of Justice; and local and state law enforcement agencies. On November 30, 1998, the NICS, designed to immediately respond to background check inquiries for prospective firearm transferees, was activated.

For an FFL to initiate a NICS check, the prospective firearms transferee must complete and sign an ATF Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record. The ATF Form 4473, which collects the subject’s name and descriptive data (e.g., date of birth, sex, race, state of residence, country of citizenship), also elicits information that may immediately indicate to an FFL the subject is a prohibited person, thereby negating the need to continue the processing of the background check.

When an FFL initiates a NICS background check, a name and descriptor search is conducted to identify any matching records in three nationally held databases managed by the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division. The databases searched during the background check process are:

  • Interstate Identification Index (III): The III maintains subject criminal history records. As of December 31, 2013, the III records available to be searched by the NICS during a background check numbered 66,679,543.
  • National Crime Information Center (NCIC): The NCIC contains data on persons who are the subjects of protection orders or active criminal warrants, immigration violators, and others. As of December 31, 2013, the NCIC records available to be searched by the NICS during a background check numbered 5,463,159.
  • NICS Index: The NICS Index, a database created specifically for the NICS, collects and maintains information contributed by local, state, tribal, and federal agencies pertaining to persons prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm pursuant to state and federal law. Typically, the records maintained in the NICS Index are not available via the III or the NCIC. As of December 31, 2013, there were 11,166,690 records in the NICS Index.
  • Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): The relevant databases of the ICE are searched for non-U.S. citizens attempting to receive firearms in the United States. In 2013, the NICS Section and the Point-of-Contact (POC) states (states that have implemented a state-based NICS program) sent 118,183 such queries to the ICE. From February 2002 to December 31, 2013, the ICE conducted over 517,943 queries in support of the NICS.

The NICS index lists about 1.9 million felons. It’s likely that the bulk of felons are included in the NCIC and III data bases. Here are the links for the sources of the numbers used in the chart above.

NICS ‘Mental Defectives’ number December 31, 2000(pdf):  89,591

December 31, 2002  142,651

December 31, 2004  221,478

December 31, 2005  234,628

December 31, 2006  298,571

December 31, 2007 518,499

December 31, 2008 648,128

December 31, 2009(pdf) 888,807

December 31, 2010(pdf) 1,107,758

December 31, 2011(pdf)   1,364,613

December 31, 2012 1,821,217

December 31, 2013 3,260,730

December 31, 2014(pdf)  3,774,301

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
Gun Watch


Recommended For You

42 Responses to Growth of NICS ‘Mental Defectives’ Index Category

    • It’s funny you should mention that. In Season 6 of “Through the Wormhole,” on the “Are we all bigots?” episode, Morgan Freeman discussed a study that was done in the UK by an American political scientist by the name of Darren Schreiber.

      The cliff’s notes version of this-according to the episode-is that Schreiber had people play a simple gambling game, essentially “here’s £1, you can either keep it or gamble that you’ll double it” while evaluating their brain activity with fMRI. Keep in mind, this is a purely risk/reward scenario; the subjects have no ability to influence or in any way control the outcome-they either win or they don’t. The purpose of the experiment was to determine if there’s any difference between the way conservatives and liberals think.

      What he found was that conservative brains process this scenario with the amygdala, which is the region of the brain associated with fight-or-flight responses; as the show put it, “Red brains experienced risk as a threat with a potential reward.”

      Now-this is the key part, pay attention here-the show went on to say that “Liberal brains consistently use the insula when gambling, a region associated with perception of one’s own feelings. Blue brains experienced risk as a problem to be solved.”

      Think about that for a minute. I mean REALLY think about it: Liberals, when faced with a scenario where they have **no ability to influence the outcome whatsoever** evidently approach the decision-making process as though they can think themselves into a “correct” answer.

      Progressivism is a mental illness. It belongs in the DSM-5.

      • It does seem to explain the apparent need to solve social issues, and the unwillingness to allow free-willed individuals to solve their own problems. To do something, anything, must be better than to do nothing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to want to solve problems, but the unwillingness to admit backing off the problem and thinking that anything I do must be better does speak to a certain arrogance.

        • Oh for cryin’ out loud …

          You are taking a controlled experiment designed to simply see how two types of people might respond to gambling, that then happened to come across another phenomena entirely – i.e. that some people look at the ‘unknown’ with trepidation (perhaps at the extreme end, avoidance), while others look at that same ‘unknown’ and feel the need to confront (or even fix) it. The gambling experiment was incidental to the larger discovery, it did not indicate that ‘blue brains’ were unwaveringly going to try and fix impossible situations, any more than ‘red brains’ would run with there tails between there legs at the sight of any problem, big or small.

          But ok, let’s play your game and say [all ‘x-type people’ are destined to do ‘y’]. I would frankly rather live in a world where the people who were willing to confront and fix problems – no matter how impossible the problem may or may not be – where in charge, rather than the ignorant or cowardly who don’t wanna know about nothin’, and would instead let the sh*t linger & stink instead of trying to clean it up.

          The world once had a massive society that believed that social castes were immutable, and that most/all problems should be left to the gods to sort out. It was called the Roman Empire, and not only did it hold up most material (unless it was military in nature) and spiritual progress in it’s time, but it sucked to live in for the vast majority of the people subjected to it. Oh yeah – and it also collapsed under the weight of it’s own decaying carcass.

          The Founding Fathers (who btw modeled our own government somewhat on the Roman REPUBLIC that was vanquished by the power mad individuals who insisted on the sickness of Empire) must’ve had some pretty blue brains themselves when you think about it:

          How must it have looked to all the colonists of that time, the very idea of vanquishing the mighty British Empire for such an impossible, idealistic goal as self-government and a freer society. There were those who positively scoffed at the very possibility of success. They were called Tories and Royalists and they thought the Patriots of this country-to-be were fools – crazy even. Mentally defective.

          As a gun owner, I can’t tell you how pissed off I am about having to explain myself to liberals on why I am, and how wrong headed they are on this issue. Then I read crap like the above comment and I realize how stupid we look to them a lot of the time, on practically every other issue. No wonder they’re so hard to get through to on this one. When we vilify them, even on the parts of them that are inarguably good (if this experiment you mention is to be taken at face value), how can we expect them to look at anything we say with clear eyes. Many of us sure don’t extend anything close to the same courtesy to them.

          Meanwhile, the little Masters of the Universe who are pulling ‘fear strings’ on both sides are getting all of us to do their dirty work for them – one more Constitutionally guaranteed right being torn up by both sides arguing whether/why THIS one absolutely NEEDS to be curtailed for SAFETY, and calling each other traitor in the process. The Left is afraid of guns (‘get rid of the 2nd Amendment!’), the Right is afraid of minorities & immigrants (‘get rid of the 14th & 15th!’), and Muslims and/or terrorists are the bogey men of enough on both sides (‘get rid of the 1st 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, & 8th!!’) that there’s only a few relevant ones left before we’re all – lefties AND righties – wondering what the hell happened to our country.

          Christ, it’s like we’re all arguing in the back seats over who gets to tell who where to sit, or whether they’ll have to stand while ‘WE’ sit, meanwhile the unnoticed bus driver is now so close to driving us all off a cliff you can see the drop off!

          ‘Blue brains’ aren’t the enemy. ‘Red brains’ aren’t the savior. Or vice versa. We’re all just f*cking ourselves, while the those puppeteers take one more piece of the good life away, and laugh at us for letting them do it.

          Good job, boys!

        • Commenter, it’s really not worth picking through it, but too much of what you attribute to what is “conservative” isn’t, if you think you are one but believe that, you’re wrong.

          To the rest of you, “Through Morgan Freeman’s bunghole” is a fing tv show, and a HUGELY LIBERAL ONE AT THAT, and it doesn’t get to flip the liberal/conservative coin on any matter of consequence, and they can pound any study in their a_ _. Put down the remote and get a real life.

          The true test of liberal vs. conservative is simple. If we all did liberal, this little game we’re all playing would be over, and you and yours would all die very badly from a case of “anything goes”. If we we’re all conservative we’d continue (GOD willing) but we’d all be better off. Consevatism is the bulwark of the maintenance of our Societies, and is what restores it, should Societal Agreement falter.
          No matter if where or when we go out into the universe, we will be forever the finite creations of GOD. We will come to easily destroy each other and everything else we encounter, should basic needs become excessively scarce. But even where there is plenty, conservatism is what permits us to allow each other to each obtain from bounty, what is needed and/or desired. That conservatism demands certain exposition of a positive priority and valuation of mores/norms/ethics or else we will hash out the final nature of our co-existence in a more littered immediacy. The distance between your “today” and (instead) waking up under a tree, and, after having survived the night’s elements, having to be concerned with protecting your day’s proceeds of your forage and hunt; possibly a desired mate and resultant offspring, is often called “Society”. Those interested in it, can only be those interested in “Tomorrow”, and tomorrow’s tomorrow. Those people are Conservatives. History has already decided, and provides numerous and ready examples. [loosely paraphrased, J.M. Thomas R., TERMS, 2012]

        • commenter, the experiment was not, to my knowledge, designed to ascertain how people respond to gambling specifically. It was designed to attempt to generate some insight into the way people who self-identify as either “liberal” or “conservative” approach decision making; a gambling game was simply the experimental methodology chosen-likely because there is no right or wrong answer and it should be ± politically neutral.

          Either way, the specific methodology of data collection in that study and the reasons for using it are secondary to the discussion at hand. For our purposes, the relevant information is that when a self-identified liberal is placed in a situation in which they can be expected to have a logical understanding that they cannot exert any influence over the outcome of this situation, and subsequently asked to decide between two options that are, objectively speaking, equally valid-that is, there can be neither a “right” nor a “wrong” answer-these people’s brains approach the scenario as a problem which they can solve. This is in contrast to the brains of self-identified “conservatives”, which essentially treat what is provably a risk/reward scenario as, uh, a risk/reward scenario.

          It is my hypothesis that the thought processes displayed by the people that identified themselves as liberals in this study are indicative of a profound disconnect with reality. I would also speculate that it implies-though certainly does not prove-a more widespread, systemic inability to correctly deduce when rational thought can be applied to a given scenario and then engage in it in an appropriate manner. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it could indicate a fundamental inability to correctly utilize logic at all.

          This is obviously well beyond the scope of the original study, and I think it warrants further research. In the meantime, the simple fact that the liberal mind can be placed in a situation in which it appears to believe that it can rationalize its way out of an inherently irrational scenario is sufficient evidence for me, personally, to label the condition a mental illness. You are, of course, entitled to disagree.

          With respect to the rest of your post, while I’m sure tmm can speak for him/herself, at no point in *my* original post did I say anything about “all ‘x-type people’ are destined to do ‘y’.” My statement began and ended with the assertion that liberalism is a psychological defect. I made no predictions as to how that would affect their ability to contribute to society or lack thereof.

          As far as gun owners looking stupid to liberals goes… One of the more unfortunate tenents of progressivism (masquerading as liberalism) is a compulsive need for its practitioners to both (a) involve themselves in other peoples’ business and (b) demand that other people support their attempts to “confront and fix” things that the liberal has deemed to be a “problem.” Note that their notion of what constitutes a problem is separate from-and often totally independent of-any kind of actual objective analysis of the situation.

          Invariably, this compulsion to butt in manifests itself as a demand for some kind of sacrifice on the part of whatever group or individual the liberals are imposing themselves on, be it in the form of a further infringement upon our natural right to self defense, or another $50 out of our paychecks to fund some bleeding heart’s pet project. I, for one, am actively disinterested in contributing to this process. Not just with respect to guns mind you, but in any way, shape, or form. I have more important things to do with my time, money, and freedoms than help other people.

          And therein lies the issue. Liberals are vilified for the same basic reason evangelical Christians are: their philosophy of life requires them to involve themselves whether they’re wanted or not.

          Oh, and please, do not mistake my intense distaste for liberals as an endorsement of “traditional conservative values.” I regard most people on both sides of the aisle-and politicians as a matter of course-as life unworthy of life and I’m only too happy to point out that I consider bible-humping conservatives to be mentally defective as well, albeit for different reasons. That was simply beyond the scope of the original discussion.

        • Somebody’s mom came up with that stupid hammer saying.

          To a man with a gun, fewer things look like “problems”.

      • If you look into the research behind the conservative/amygdala vs liberal/anterior cingulate cortex data it actually suggests that the conservative brain tends to respond to complex issues with fear whereas the liberal brain views the same types of issues as problems to be solved. Not terribly surprising if you simply look at each political platform, however what was interesting was that it could actually be mapped to physically different parts of the brain. Great show by the way.

        • If you looked at published studies, and not tv outlet mall “shows”, you’d see that nowhere is there made any such assertions.

          Liberals avoiding any semblance of logic in their thinking, however, is so universally accepted, that it fails to garner any further study.

  1. Yep-I still see defectives wearing Obama hats and shirts and talking on their “Bama phone…quite a long list. I’d say the gubmint is hazardous to your health.


      That’s a relatively solid indication of liberal v. conservative (respectively).

      • Liberal=Progressive=communist

        The US HAS HISTORICALLY dedicated untold resources of its blood, sweat, tears, and treasure, to eradicating communists around the globe, and where found on our shores, and we need to catch up on some serious house keeping, and push the rest out to the nearest star.

    • The #1 cause of non-natural death in our most recent century was democide. Death by government. Armed with that knowledge, I have come to view government as generally bad. Very bad actually. Necessary, yes, but should be checked, limited, curtailed, and as narrow in scope as possible. As the government grows, the risk it poses to those it governs grows. Eventually our government will be too big to serve us. Hopefully we can delay that as long as possible.

  2. Would be interesting to meet and interview some of the mentally defective people. Obama would never present how thorough the system already is.

  3. So how does this relate to the new executive order re-adding reporting from the social scurity administration?

  4. With confiscation the ultimate goal it is the inverse of mental defectiveness that they seek for control.
    That is a measurement of mental competency to posses a handgun. The measurement for this is well established.: Wealth, power and celebrity.

  5. Since 2011 it looks like they are adding about 500,000 a year. In another 30 years or so, they will have all they need.

    • Not if we can take our country back from the mental defectives currently occupying government offices in D.C.

  6. Caught a bit of Limbaugh today and he was talking about how the communists used the doctors to spy on the citizenry and how the Democrats are trying to do the same. What happens when a patient you’ve been treating goes and shoots up a school? ‘Why didn’t you report him?’ It’s easy to see how the government could exert this kind of pressure on doctors. I remember hearing a quote from Lenin that socialized medicine was imperative because once you control their doctors you control their health and their lives. So I think El Rushbo might have been on to something, but I only caught a part of it.

    The end result is that this will only discourage those that need help from getting help. Anyone who thinks that they can trust the government, or the bureaucrats that run it, to be looking out for their best interest are the ones who are really crazy. Even homicidal maniacs have more sense than that.

    • That’s why it’s unsafe to fight your gov’t without first fighting those that put them there. Thankfully each side is relatively proud of their red/blue map apportionment, and all the stupid blue f’ers wad up on each other. Like Sh_tcago.

  7. Doubt it was the change in definition. State reporting of Mental Defectives/Commitments is voluntary. After VA tech (2007) and Aurora (2012), a lot of of states changed their reporting and initiated reporting (and of course, Newton, 2012) Many did not report (and many still do not report now).

    Maryland is one of those states, and the explanation for why we do not report varies (depending on the politician you and and how tight your tinfoil is). You would think a Democratic administration would want to report state mental health records. Yet, strangely, no. Maybe that would render the in-state background check done by the State Police irrelevant. Maybe it would expose our woefully incompetent state agencies, some of whom still use DOS. Keep in mind, we are a state that tried to build our own healthcare website and failed abysmally. In other words, maybe we have no idea, and have no capacity to report, and would make it up.

    But, privacy turns out to be a convenient excuse, I’ll go with that.

    There are federal funds available, but some states still refuse (like MD). There are probably still a dozen or so states that do not report – so I expect the “growth” to continue until every state is reporting.

  8. That looks almost exactly like those “hockey stick” graphs they always show in global warming predictions. Using the same logic behind those predictions, I think we can assume that the entire nation will be mentally defective within another 10-12 years (if elected president, Hillary will do her best to shorten the timeline).

  9. The industry of Government finding new and creative ways to justify its exsistance. Hope the new President swears to no new legistlation, and deconstructs one government bureaucracy every year he’s in office.

    • We send our representatives to DC to tell YOUR representatives that we don’t need nor want to be led by them either.

      We have a few things needing doing, so we have ‘government’. The F’ers that kill themselves and others to go ‘work’ there are just your a-hole neighbors who needed a job. That’s ok, it just gets hugely F’d up, when they get there and they all convince themselves that we “all just want to be led”.

      “Poop to that” — Marvin Bogs

  10. Thanks for the thorough article Dean. It alone makes my subscription to TTAG worth every penny!

    We could use a few more like you around here.

  11. Just curious, I was an ER nurse for 30 years. What do they mean by mental defective? Seriously, never heard that used as a diagnosis. Also, unlike the physical evidence of injury or illness, all psychiatric illnesses boil down to someone’s opinion. Told to me be a rep from the local counseling group.

    • “Mental defective” is not exactly a medical term. It’s a legal term, at least insofar as that’s the term used in the text of the the 1968 Gun Control Act. The ATF regards it as an outdated and derogatory, i.e., politically incorrect, term. They’re stuck with it, since they can’t change the text of the law, only Congress can.

      Nevertheless, a person is “adjudicated as a mental defective” if a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority has made a determination that a person, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease:
      Is a danger to himself or to others;
      Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs;
      Is found insane by a court in a criminal case;
      or is found incompetent to stand trial, or not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility.

  12. So?
    What OTHER enumerated civil rights and/or liberties do “mental detectives” automatically lose?

  13. Don’t the anti-gunners think all gun owners are mentally defective? It’s only a short leap to a classic Catch-22: If you want to own a gun, you’ve just proved you shouldn’t have one.

    • And if you want to take one away, you are mentally defective because you feel the need to lash-out regardless of actual threat, you have succumbed to your personal grandiose fantasies that we’d actually like or permit you to decide anything for us except what your balls taste like.

  14. This is more real than people may think, and a lot easier to affect “normal folks” than people may imagine.

    Certain states, like California, remove your gun rights for much lower thresholds. You don’t have to be “adjudicated” or “committed”, but a single doctor can make the decision.

    Case in point: my wife is a rather sane person. When she got notice that her mother died suddenly and unexpectedly, she had a bit of a nervous breakdown. This was a one time incident, based on a singular tragic event. At the time, an overly cautious doctor was concerned about her as I was out of town on business – and put her on what they call in Colorado an “M1 observation hold” for 72 hours.

    If we were in California, this could have meant that they could come and take our firearms. Colorado narrowly avoided passing a similar measure this year.

    Of course she’s been fine since and was fine before the 72 hours were up – but the young doc thought he was doing the right thing, fully unaware of what future stigma and implications it would bring.

    I’m actually still unsure if she’d pass a NICS check in Colorado, since the CBI is so vague as to what they consider someone with a “history of mental issues”. To be honest, after all this, I’m a bit scared to find out.

  15. Remember that the Soviets defined political dissent as a mental disease and hospitalized those found to be suffering from “philosophical intoxication” leading to nonstandard beliefs about truth, freedom and justice.

    Also, legally speaking, ‘mental disease or defect’ is a more serious category than mere inability to manage finances as they are attempting to broaden it. The GCA actually requires for the prohibition to be in effect that the person be “adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.”

    First, neither VA or Social Security are competent to adjudicate constitutional rights or to commit people. Second, the ” mental defect” language relates to a failure to comprehend what is right or wrong in using a weapon or that it is a deadly weapon. In other words, the prohibition is tied to the insanity defense standards.

    Federal courts in 1968 used the “M’Naghten test” for insanity. They toyed with less stringent standards, but Congress ended that in 1981, after Hinkley’s attempt on Reagan.

    The M’Naghten test is whether the person (1)not know that his act would be wrong; or (2)did not understand the nature and quality of his actions. In other words, if a person holding a gun does not know it is what it is, or thinks people are piles of sand, or doesn, know that killing of maiming people is wrong, a a court has found that to be true, then the person is prohibited under the statutory language

    They are trying to seriously broaden that standard by adopting the VA and Social Security “competency” adminstrative standards, and it seems to follow the Soviet pattern in allowing anyone to be denounced and disarmed on mere reports.

  16. For Social Security, it could apply to anyone with a representative payee – a doctor signs off that the person is unable to manage their own finances, and the SSA gives control of the persons money to someone else – often a family member or nursing home. I’ve seen several situations where it happened for temporary issues, once where it happened because the person was addicted to narcotics, and dozens of cases where it was just the easiest way for the nursing home to get paid.

  17. In 2013 NICS lists ‘mental defectives’ as:

    Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution …

    So, if a young woman has an eating disorder and goes to a treatment center for 6 weeks, is that treatment center a “mental institution” and she therefore cannot ever purchase/own a firearm ever again in her life?

    Along the same lines, imagine an adult who experiences a death in their family, loses their job, and learns that their spouse started divorce proceedings in a very short time span … and understandably goes into a bout of severe depression with suicidal thoughts. If that person goes to a treatment center for four weeks, is that treatment center a “mental institution” and he/she therefore cannot ever purchase/own a firearm ever again in his/her life?

  18. My sister in law needed some mental healthcare, and I was present while the doctors were presenting her with her options. If she voluntarily committed herself she would have to pay for all of it, but if it were involuntary, the city and state would cover all the expenses. They were practically begging her to let them ‘involuntarily’ commit herself. In the end she chose voluntary help, but it was close to stripping her of her rights.

    • This illustrates how all these hot-button issues are interconnected.

      People talk about being “single issue voters” or liking a candidate on Guns but not on Healthcare.

      It’s all related. It’s all one issue: Statism vs Individualism.

      So, we have a system where you can get mental health treatment paid for by “someone else,” so it SEEMS “free.” But, it’s not really “free” at all. Everything has a cost. The cost in this case is giving away legal access to natural rights for life.

      When a person is depressed, they are vulnerable – especially to those purporting to help them. The potential for obscene manipulations here are astronomically large.

      I’ve got to say…the manipulation of ‘mental health’ as part of the Statist narrative was genius. It has slipped in under many people’s radar, and it will be very difficult to undo this one.

      The big problem is, just like prison in general, it is a one-way ticket. Get adjudicated mentally ill and BOOM…no life for you after that. Yes, you get to breathe air and consume food, but no real “Life, Liberty or Pursuit of Happiness.”

      Once. That’s all it takes. From one 17 year old stealing a car to one depressed person seeking help.

      This is where we find ourselves in 2016…too many ‘excuses’ to deny rights all around us. It’s not just “guns,” folks. Be very wary of taking a too-one-dimensional view of this stuff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *