Gun Groups Differ on "NICS Fix" Bills
"GOA opposes the background check system because prior restraints should not be placed on law-abiding gun owners who wish to exercise their Second Amendment-protected rights," GOA's Executive Director Erich Pratt told Townhall.
Gun Groups Differ on "NICS Fix" Bills
In the wake of last week's deadly church shooting in Texas and this week's shooting in Northern California, legislators have come together to find common ground. The one thing that everyone can agree on is that the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) has flaws. That was proven in a couple of mass shootings where the shooter legally obtained a firearm.
A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced Senate Bill 2135, also known as the Fix NICS Act, which is designed to fix the reporting requirements for the NICS. This bill penalizes federal agencies who fail to report relevant criminal records to the FBI and creates an incentive for states to make sure their reporting is up-to-date by giving federal grant preferences to states who comply. The bill also directs more federal funding to make sure domestic violence records are accurately reported to the FBI.
“For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” Sen. Cornyn said in a release. “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.”
The bill's sponsors include 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).
The bill has seen significant support from both gun owners and gun control advocates.
Support From Gun Rights Groups
Both the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) support the bill.
“The National Rifle Association has long supported the inclusion of all legitimate records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). While federal law prohibited the Texas shooter from possessing a firearm, he was able to pass a background check because the Air Force failed to transfer his conviction record to the FBI," NRA's Executive Director Chris W. Cox told Townhall. "We applaud Sen. John Cornyn’s efforts to ensure that the records of prohibited individuals are entered into NICS, while providing a relief valve for those who are wrongly included in the system. The NRA will continue to support efforts to make the background check system instant, accurate and fair, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners."
"We commend Sen. Cornyn for his leadership to encourage state and federal agencies to enter all applicable records in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)," Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the NSSF Lawrence G. Keane said. "This legislation will provide states with the necessary resources to promptly and efficiently provide disqualifying records to NICS on those who are prohibited under current law from possessing firearms. Federally licensed firearms retailers rely upon NICS to prevent the sale of firearms to prohibited persons. This legislation will fix NICS so that background checks are accurate and reliable."
Support From Gun Control Groups
Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action came out in support of the Cornyn bill.
“The Sutherland Springs, Texas, mass shooting was another deadly reminder that the criminal background check system is only as good as the records it contains. This bipartisan legislation is an important first step to improve the background check system, and keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and criminals," John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. "A majority of mass shooters in this country have histories of domestic violence, and we’re glad that Sens. Cornyn and Murphy are working in a bipartisan way to address gaps in the background check system that allow people with dangerous histories to obtain firearms.”
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' gun control organization, Giffords, also supports the bill.
“The background check system is only as strong as the records it contains, so this bill is a step in the right direction. It’s an important signal to states and federal agencies that Congress means business when it comes to ensuring a strong, effective background check system," Peter Ambler, Executive Director of Giffords, said in a statement. "And it demonstrates that Congress can come together to legislate solutions to gun violence. Even in the aftermath of the worst shooting in American history, the gun lobby wanted to weaken gun safety laws and move us backward. This proposal strengthens our laws and moves us forward."
The National Network to End Domestic Violence and the National Fraternal Order of Police took to Twitter to show support for the bill.
The Bill's Opposition
Gun Owners of America (GOA), on the other hand, oppose the bill. The group's Chairman, Tim Macy, penned an open letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell, which said helping tweak the NICS would be giving gun control advocates a win.
"GOA opposes the background check system because prior restraints should not be placed on law-abiding gun owners who wish to exercise their Second Amendment-protected rights," GOA's Executive Director Erich Pratt told Townhall. "We also oppose putting more names and more information into NICS because the more information that gets added the more data that can be used to deny law-abiding gun owners."