Fix NICS Bill to Strengthen Gun Background Check System Signed into Law

In: All News   Posted 03/23/2018

WASHINGTON— Today, President Trump signed the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill into law. U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representatives John Culberson (TX-07) and Henry Cuellar (TX-28) included their Fix NICS Act in FY18 omnibus to ensure that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) operations more adequately address background check demand and improve NICS performance, including enhancing system availability, determination rates, and E-Check services. The bill includes language requiring the Secretary of Defense to submit reports to Congress detailing the submission of records to databases accessible to NICS, directing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to consult with and provide technical guidance to help other Federal departments and agencies fulfill their obligation to submit all relevant records into the NICS database, as well as to consult with state and tribal governments to provide training and technical assistance in completing strong NICS Initiative Grant applications.

This bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Cornyn and Murphy and in the House by Reps. Cuellar and Culberson in response to the horrific shooting that occurred in early November in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which killed 26 people.

“After the tragedy in Sutherland Springs, I vowed to that community to do what I could so no family, school, or congregation would have to go through that again,” Sen. Cornyn said. “While it’s not the only solution, I’m confident this bill will save lives. I’m grateful for the many advocates and families affected by gun violence who came together behind this effort to finally fix and strengthen the criminal background check system.”

“Had existing law been enforced, the horrific tragedies in Sutherland Springs and Parkland would have never occurred,”
said Rep. Culberson. “Fixing the background check system will ensure that guns stay out of the hands of people who have broken the law and already forfeited their right to own a gun. Fix NICS is for every child, mother, father and family in America, and I applaud my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate that have worked hard to pass this life-saving bill.”

“I would like to thank my fellow Appropriators, Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson, and Senators John Cornyn and Chris Murphy for their leadership and assistance on this issue,” said Congressman Cuellar. “The Sutherland Springs shooting revealed dangerous loopholes in the NICS database, and this bill is a necessary step forward in closing those gaps. It is critical that we hold states and federal agencies accountable for accurately and comprehensively reporting relevant information into NICS, while ensuring that these entities have sufficient support and resources to implement these requirements.

“I thank Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) for crafting the original Senate version of this bill and for leading Congress towards finding solutions to this crucial issue. I also would like to recognize Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Reps. John Culberson (R-TX), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Ryan Costello (R-PA), Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), and Dina Titus (D-NV) for their leadership on addressing this critical matter. This legislation is an essential step in preventing tragedies like the one we witnessed in Sutherland Springs.”

Background on 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.