Last year, Congress passed a law that was hailed as “the first major gun control legislation in a decade” in response to the Virginia Tech shootings. The legislation was supposed to close the loophole that allowed Seung-Hui Cho, who had been ordered by a judge to undergo outpatient mental health treatment, to buy a gun. The press slipped into a bipartisan rapture over the involvement of the NRA in crafting the legislation:

With the NRA on board, the bill, which fixes flaws in the national gun background check system that allowed the Virginia Tech shooter to buy guns despite his mental health problems, has a good chance of becoming the first major gun control law in more than a decade.

“We’ll work with anyone, if you protect the rights of law-abiding people under the second amendment and you target people that shouldn’t have guns,” NRA chief Wayne LaPierre told CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Atkisson.

“As the Virginia Tech shooting reminded us, there is an urgent national need to improve the background check system” to keep guns out of the hands of those barred from buying them, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

But six days before last Thursday’s shooting, Stephen Kazmierczak, a former student at Northern Illinois University, walked into a gun shop in Champaign and bought two guns he later used to kill six people and then himself in a rampage on NIU’s campus. Kazmierczak, like Seung-Hui Cho, had a history of mental illness.

The 27-year-old Kazmierczak also had a history of mental illness and had become erratic in the past two weeks after he stopped taking his medication, said university Police Chief Donald Grady.

A former employee at a Chicago psychiatric treatment center said Kazmierczak had been placed there after high school by his parents. He used to cut himself and had resisted taking his medications, she said.

Kazmierczak spent more than a year at the Thresholds-Mary Hill House in the late 1990s, former house manager Louise Gbadamashi told The Associated Press. His parents placed him there after high school because he had become “unruly” at home, she said.

Gbadamashi couldn’t remember any instances of him being violent, she said.

“He never wanted to identify with being mentally ill,” she said. “That was part of the problem.”

Whether or not Kazmierczak wanted to identify with being mentally ill, the issue seems to be that he didn’t have to. Illinois gun laws require prospective gun buyers to apply for a permit, which is more than many states require. But when Kazmierczak filled out his application form, he simply answered “no” to the pertinent questions.

Kazmierczak, 27, held a valid permit, which he recently presented to a Champaign gun dealer to buy the guns used in the rampage, authorities said.

To obtain the permit, he had to answer “no” to this question: “Within the past five years, have you been a patient in any medical facility or part of any medical facility used primarily for the care or treatment of persons for mental illness?”

Hardly a thorough background check.

Even more frustrating is that both Kazmierczak and Seung-Hui bought equipment used in the shootings from companies owned by the same online dealer, Eric Thompson. It’s not clear whether or not Kazmierczak found out about the websites from news surrounding the Virginia Tech shooting, or whether it’s simply “a coincidence”.

Eric Thompson said his Web site, sold two empty 9 mm Glock magazines and a Glock holster to Steven Kazmierczak on Feb. 4, just 10 days before the 27-year-old opened fire in a classroom and killed five before committing suicide.

Another Web site run by Thompson’s company, , also sold a Walther .22-caliber handgun to Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in April on the Virginia Tech campus before killing himself.

“I’m still blown away by the coincidences,” Thompson said Friday. “I’m shaking. I can’t believe somebody would order from us again and do this.”

I’ll avoid the obvious pun that could be made here at Thompson’s expense. But could this possibly be a surprise? How many different things can you do with a gun?

Kazmierczak may not have been flagged under current gun control laws because private mental health records are not included in the federal database–so unlike Seung-Hui, who had been ordered by a judge to undergo treatment because two female students had complained that he had stalked them and was therefore in the system; Kazmierczak’s illness was not a matter of public record because he had not been ruled mentally ill by a judge.

There seem to be at least two related problems with the existing laws that allowed Kazmierczak to buy the guns he used at NIU. The first is that Illinois laws regarding gun permits apparently don’t require applicants to undergo a thorough background check. The second is that the collaborative legislation that passed the House last year doesn’t identify people with a history of mental illness who haven’t drawn attention to themselves from the authorities.

The issue is one of privacy. It seems impossible to respect an individual’s right to keep their medical history to themselves and still have an effective database that can identify ill people who try to buy guns. At the same time, we give our medical history away when we apply to schools, and sometimes even jobs, so an argument can be made that such a history can be kept private, as long as you’re not trying to buy a deadly weapon that can be used to kill scores of people.

Is it a tremendous violation of a person’s individual rights for prospective gun buyers to have to give their medical history before buying a gun, as opposed to disclosure essentially being optional, as it was in Illinois? It seems like there would be some way to identify people with a history of mental health beyond those who have been “adjudicated” ill.

Chuck Schumer held a press conference on Saturday vowing to close the “loopholes” in existing gun laws.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), at a news conference yesterday in Manhattan, said he and congressional colleagues plan to step up efforts to close loopholes in gun-control measures and create a federal task force to come up with national school safety guidelines. They also plan to push for congressional hearings on links between mental illness and school violence.

Why do I get the feeling the NRA might not be on board this time?

Also, I gotta ask the question…have you noticed that the media is always “shocked” when I white kid picks a gun and blows away mad people, but is generally blase about death in urban communities?

I would argue it’s not a cultural problem…easy access to guns is the problem. You can have all the mental health problems you want, without a gun there’s no rampage. But white folks seem eager to attribute violence in urban communities to “a culture of violence,” why is the same not said about a larger culture that every few months or so, produces a mass murderer out of someone who goes off their meds?

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