PARK CITY He did not talk about "waterboarding" or wiretapping.
Instead, Michael Mukasey focused on cooperation between state and federal prosecutors during his first public remarks since becoming U.S. attorney general.
Mukasey announced that the number of people barred from purchasing guns because of mental health problems has doubled since the Virginia Tech shootings earlier this year. It was because of a joint federal-state database initiative that allows authorities to share information.
"With your cooperation and the leadership of state officials, the FBI tells me they have recently doubled the number of such mental health records," Mukasey said at the meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General on Thursday. "I want to thank you personally for the great strides that have been made since that time and ask for your continued help."
Mukasey spoke to the attorneys general from 33 states gathered at The Canyons resort for the semiannual conference of the National Association of Attorneys General. He urged more states to get on board in reporting information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.
As of Nov. 1, only 32 states were providing information on people prohibited from possessing firearms, regardless of whether that prohibition results from a federal or state law.
"As the Virginia Tech tragedy made clear, it is vital that NICS have accurate and complete information on persons prohibited from possessing firearms because of mental health history," Mukasey said, adding that he will still protect privacy.
The April shootings at Virginia Tech left 33 people dead, including killer Seung-Hui Cho.
Mukasey's plea has the support of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
"We certainly intend to recommend that," he told reporters after Mukasey's speech, adding that he plans to recommend it to state lawmakers.
During his 10-minute speech, Mukasey emphasized cooperation between state attorneys general and the Justice Department.
"Sharing information whether it is from one government agency to another, or from all of us to our citizens is a vital part of being prepared against all threats," he said.
He urged states to appoint someone to coordinate information on terrorism, law enforcement and homeland security. He also promised more cooperation in combating violent crime.
Mukasey spoke quickly, reading from a prepared speech. He did not take questions from the attorneys general or news reporters. After shaking hands with the attorneys general, who crowded a ballroom to hear his speech, he quickly left surrounded by a security contingent.
Earlier in the day, law enforcement officials said Mukasey met with staffers at U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman's office in Salt Lake City, Utah's federal judges, and the heads of all the federal law enforcement offices in Utah.
Shurtleff met with Mukasey before the speech.
"His priorities, he's been handed national security," Shurtleff said. "He came down with us on violent crime, protecting children."
Mukasey, a former New York federal judge, was appointed by President Bush to take over the U.S. Department of Justice after the September resignation of Alberto Gonzales. He was confirmed this month.
During his confirmation hearings, Mukasey faced questions and criticism over his views about anti-terrorism initiatives and interrogation techniques. Mukasey refused to say if he believed "waterboarding," which simulates drowning, is torture.
The National Association of Attorneys General holds semiannual conferences each year, where the states' top lawyers gather to discuss issues ranging from tobacco and antitrust litigation to social networking Web sites and sexual exploitation.
"This year we created an ad hoc committee on animal cruelty with regard to dogfighting," Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said Thursday. "It's been in the news a lot, and we wanted to take a look and see what, if anything, we could do to try and resolve that issue."This is the first time the conference has been held in Utah. Traditionally, the winter conference is held in Florida. Shurtleff invited the attorneys general to Utah, just in time to experience Park City's famous ski slopes.
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