A bipartisan group of senators has produced a bill meant to address failings in the nation’s system for gun background checks.
U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), along with Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), introduced the Fix NICS Act to ensure federal and state authorities comply with existing law and accurately report relevant criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The bill penalizes federal agencies who fail to properly report relevant records and incentivizes states to improve their overall reporting. The bill also directs more federal funding to the accurate reporting of domestic violence records.
At least one of the most recent well publicized mass shootings featured murderers who should not have been allowed to purchase weapons. Sutherland Springs church shooter Devin Kelly should have been barred from gun purchases by his conviction for domestic violence while in the Air Force. Kelly had also been diagnosed with serious mental health issues. This was just one instance showing that the current system for performing background checks on weapons is inadequate—and it cost 27 lives.
The Fix NICS Act would not plug the hole that still allows some private gun sales, like those taking place at gun shows, to happen without being cleared through the federal database. Outside of licensed gun stores, gun owners can still sell a weapon to anyone as long as they don’t know of a reason that person isn’t allowed to buy a weapon. But the proposed bill would penalize agencies that failed to enter information into the database, as in the case of Devin Kelly.
Requires federal agencies and states to produce NICS implementation plans focused on uploading all information to the background check system showing that a person is prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms under current law—including measures to verify the accuracy of records.
Congress has still failed to take some actions that seem obvious in light of some of the most recent shootings. For example, no bill to stop the manufacture and sale of “bump stocks” such as the one used in the Las Vegas mass shooting have received so much as a vote.
But the bipartisan nature of the group behind Fix NICS suggests that at least this minimal effort—which doesn’t change the existing rules, but adds encouragements to follow them—should indicate that it will at least make it to the floor.