At the start of this past week, one of NCSC’s executives from the Williamsburg office asked me if I would help with a high priority project. He was part of a research initiative conducted by NCSC to provide research for the bipartisan gun bill that was passed by Congress last week. NCSC had sent out a survey to all 50 states, requesting information about the state’s practices regarding access to juvenile records. The objective of the survey was to find out where states’ stored juvenile records, whether the records were stored in an electronic database at a local or state level, what parties have access to juvenile records, and if juvenile records are reported to the state criminal history repository. Part of the bipartisan gun bill is to engage in more thorough reviews of individuals between ages 18 and 21 who want to buy guns. One way to increase the thoroughness of background checks for this population is to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, which will give NICS greater access to potentially disqualifying information on young individuals purchasing guns. The research about the states’ juvenile records access was time sensitive and I was asked to put the states’ answers into a readable spreadsheet so that it could be reviewed quickly.
Only about 35 states responded, but it was fascinating seeing how the states varied in their databases, access guidelines, and general laws regarding juvenile records. The project took me about a day and a half to sift through the information that the states sent back, which sometimes just consisted of links that led to the relevant code or statute governing access to juvenile records. Although I am working at the International Programs Division of NCSC, it was a fun and interesting change of pace to receive an assignment from the US headquarters and to work on a project that was directly related to current legislation in the country. Additionally, since I have been working with many small countries that have single sets of law that govern the entire region, it was a reminder of how unique the US legal system is, with 50 different sets of laws governing access to juvenile records across all the states. Although distilling state statutes and written responses into simple categories and sorting them into a spreadsheet may not seem like particularly invigorating work, I felt happy to contribute to necessary research that was to be used toward a bipartisan gun bill. Working on international problem solving and project development in post-war, developing countries can sometimes make the United States’ domestic troubles feel minimal. However, rising gun violence is just one example of many issues currently plaguing the US, and assisting on a project that may help us take a closer step towards decreasing gun-related deaths was a positive way to break up the international work this week.