The tragedy at Virginia Tech shook our nation to its core. What we have learned in the time since is that the mentally ill murderer should never have been able to purchase the Walther .22-caliber semi-automatic and 9 mm Glock handgun he used to commit those horrific crimes.

Temporarily detained at a mental health facility the previous year by law enforcement for harassing a fellow student, under current law, those fatal purchases should have been denied.

But because the Commonwealth was not correctly sharing information about people adjudicated to a mental health facility with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) -- which is used to check the background of gun purchasers -- the crucial information that would have denied the sale was missing.

In an effort to prevent this sort of situation from happening again, Congress today passed H.R. 2640, the "National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Improvement Act." The legislation authorizes $375 million to help states automate and send their mental adjudication records to the national background check database. For states that fail to comply, federal law enforcement grants would be withheld.

This is a commonsense law, but not the only one Congress should consider in the fight against gun violence. From the expired assault weapons ban to the gun show loophole that allows gun sellers to forgo checking the backgrounds of their buyers, there are a number of measures we should take to protect the public.