The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Friday that he’s interested in writing legislation this year improving background checks for gun buyers and cracking down on illegal firearms sales.

In an interview, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., provided little detail about his plans. But he said the federal background check system should be fixed to make sure more people with serious mental illnesses don’t get firearms.

Criminals and people with significant mental problems are among those barred by federal law from buying guns. States are supposed to supply the federal background check system with purchasers’ mental health records, but often they do not because of privacy rules and other barriers.

“We want to improve that system to try to screen out people who should not be able to possess firearms,” Goodlatte said.

Until now, House GOP leaders have only said they will wait to act until the Democratic-run Senate produces legislation. The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., could begin writing its own gun curb measure in the next week or two.

Goodlatte did not say when his panel might write legislation, but he said he would not necessarily wait for the Senate to pass legislation.

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