Senators Introduce Legislation to Enhance Compliance, Accuracy of Existing Background Checks
A group of senators unveiled legislation to improve background-checks for gun sales to address mass shootings.
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. Text of the Fix NICS Act is downloadable here.
“For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” Sen. Cornyn said. “Just one record that’s not properly reported can lead to tragedy, as the country saw last week in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This bill aims to help fix what’s become a nationwide, systemic problem so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.”
“This deal will strengthen the background check system and save lives. Our bill marks an important milestone that shows real compromise can be made on the issue of guns. I’m grateful that Senator Cornyn was such a strong partner and straightforward negotiator,” said Sen. Murphy. “It’s no secret that I believe much more needs to be done. But this bill will make sure that thousands of dangerous people are prevented from buying guns. It represents the strongest update to the background checks system in a decade, and provides the foundation for more compromise in the future.”
“All too often we come to the conclusion that horrible situations could have been prevented with thorough and complete reporting,” said Sen Scott. “As we tragically found out after the heartbreaking shooting at Mother Emanuel, we know the devastation that can manifest if gaps in reporting allow a madman with a criminal history to obtain a weapon. While we cannot legislate against pure evil, we most certainly should do all we can to ensure these individuals do not have access to any type of firearm. This is a commonsense solution that can fix the reporting gaps, and most importantly, has the potential to save countless innocent lives.”
“These provisions will help enforce public safety protections that could mean the difference between life and death. Non-reporting now puts people at lethal risk—riddling a system that should keep guns away from killers with gaping holes. The federal background check program is only as good as the information that is provided to it,” Sen. Blumenthal said. “Mass murderers in Sutherland Springs, Charleston, and Blacksburg were legally prohibited from accessing firearms, but gaps in NICS allowed each of them to walk out of a gun store with the weapons used to commit their crimes. Our bipartisan legislation will incentivize states, and hold federal agencies accountable, to build robust reporting systems that can prevent the sale of firearms to people who are a danger to themselves or others—including convicted domestic abusers.”
The Fix NICS Act:
- 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.
- Holds federal agencies accountable if they fail to upload relevant records to the background check system through public reporting and prohibiting bonus pay for political appointees.
- Rewards states who comply with their NICS implementation plans through federal grant preferences and incentives, while increasing accountability through public reporting for those who do not comply with their plans.
- Reauthorizes and improves important law enforcement programs to help state governments share relevant criminal record information with NICS.
- Creates a Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative to ensure that states have adequate resources and incentives to share all relevant information with NICS showing that a felon or domestic abuser is excluded from purchasing firearms under current law.
- Provides important technical assistance to federal agencies and states who are working to comply with NICS record-sharing requirements.