By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation
Congress isn’t letting dust gather on the effort to fix the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) took to the Senate floor on Wednesday, the first day the chamber was in session to lay out priorities. Fixing NICS is among the top of the list items.
Sen. Cornyn authored S. 2135, the Fix NICS Act of 2017, which incentivizes states and federal agencies to submit all disqualifying records to the FBI. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives late last year.
Building On NSSF’s Work
The legislation builds on the NSSF’s successful FixNICS®initiative to urge states to submit all disqualifying records to the FBI’s NICS database. It was started in 2013 and NSSF’s on-the-ground work resulted in a 170 percent increase in records submitted by states, up from about 1.7 million to more than 4.5 million at the end of 2016. Still, as the tragedy in Sutherland Springs showed us, there is additional work to be done.
Sen. Cornyn made it clear that fixing NICS won’t be a back-burner issue. He said from the Senate floor that Fix NICS is “on my personal to-do list.” He said the bill was filed after it was learned the Sutherland Springs criminal’s disqualifying records were never submitted by the Air Force to the FBI. When he illegally bought the firearms, the federally licensed firearms retailers didn’t know he was a prohibited person.
“He simply lied and said he had no disqualifying event in his life like those I mentioned earlier – convicted felon, mental health institutionalization, domestic violence conviction,” Sen. Cornyn said in his speech. “This tragedy was entirely preventable because the individual who committed that heinous act was legally disqualified from purchasing a firearm by the fact he was a convicted felon. He’d been convicted of domestic violence and he’d been committed to a mental health institution.”
He added in an op-ed, “That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Fix NICS Act to ensure existing laws are enforced and convicted felons don’t exploit our background check system by ‘lying and buying.’”
35 Co-Sponsors On The Measure
Sen. Cornyn said there is reason for hope that the gridlock that typifies Washington D.C. won’t choke off this effort. The bill has 35 co-sponsors, both Republican and Democrat, from 26 different states. That’s more than a third of the Senate already backing the bill from more than half the states.
“This is one of those rare times when folks who are ardent believers in the Second Amendment, as am I, and those who are perhaps less inclined to be enthusiastic about the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, where we can come together and say, ‘Well, let’s at least fix the current law,’” Cornyn said. “Let’s make sure that if somebody’s disqualified from buying a firearm that this National Instant Criminal Background Check System actually works.”
Representing America’s firearms retailers as we do, NSSF couldn’t agree more. The firearms industry was an early proponent of NICS and we’ve been leading to make the law work as intended. This is an opportunity the Senate, and our nation, can’t let pass.
Larry Keane is the National Shooting Sports Foundation Sr. VP & General Counsel.