Following the Virginia Tech massacre, the NRA backed a 2007 law that encouraged states to submit records of dangerously mentally ill individuals to the to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
"The people that have been involved in these shootings have been people who have been severely mentally ill," David Keene, then-NRA president, said in January.
Data released last year by the FBI shows that of the nearly one million federal denials of gun purchase attempts between 1998 and 2012, about 5,481 stemmed from mental health issues.
Only about half of states still report records of those at risk. As of late 2011, 23 states and the District of Columbia had submitted records to NICS, with 17 of those states submitting fewer than 10 records, according to a report compiled by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
States face an array of logistical, technological and privacy obstacles in reporting those records, according to reports from government agencies and the Congressional Research Office.
With that said, much work remains to be done for Congress if they decide to tackle mental health in the context of gun violence.
A popular policy that's gaining ground
Polls also indicate the public favors increased mental health treatment as a way to prevent gun violence. Asked how much better mental health services would help the problem, 46% said "a lot," while 35% said "some," and 9% said "not much," according to a CBS News poll from February 2013---the height of this year's gun control debate.
Asked in the same survey how much stricter gun laws could help 21% said "a lot," 33% said "some," 19% said "not much" and 26% said "not at all."
When President Barack Obama announced a series of 23 executive actions in his gun control push this year, four of them focused on mental health components.
White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked after the Navy Yard shooting whether Obama would push for renewed conversation about mental health and gun control---or, the reporter asked, does the president accept "this is the normal?"
"Well, he doesn't accept that it's the new normal. He believes that Americans don't and can't accept that," Carney said. "We continue to call on Congress to listen to the voices of their constituents and legislate accordingly. And that includes mental health matters."