Second Amendment

A Law to Enforce the Law?

Lawmakers have introduced a new background check bill to pacify the "do something" crowd.

Robin Smith · Nov. 20, 2017

What does the U.S. government do when laws on the books are not being enforced? Pass another law, of course.

After two failed attempts to improve enforcement of laws pertaining to the legal possession and purchase of a firearm, Congress may consider a third law.

Last week, the “Fix NICS Act” was introduced, sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Coon (D-CT), to urge agencies to fully and promptly report critical information and updates to the National Instant Criminal Background Check database. You see, the government can supposedly force individuals to purchase ever-more overpriced health insurance but it can’t pass a law with any enforcement mechanism to ensure a national computer database will be accurate in real time to make sure weapons are not sold to criminals or the mentally ill.

The NICS, or the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, was launched in 1998 by the FBI as a result of the 1993 Brady Law. That law was named for Ronald Reagan’s White House Press Secretary, James Brady, who was shot and permanently disabled during the assassination attempt by John Hinkley. This aggregate database, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics website, is supposed to provide information from three separate databases maintained by the FBI: The Interstate Identification Index (III), a database of criminal history record information; the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which includes information on persons subject to civil protection orders and arrest warrants; and the NICS Index, which includes the information contributed by federal and state agencies identifying persons prohibited from possessing firearms who are not included in the III or NCIC, such as persons with a prohibiting mental health history or who are illegal or unlawful aliens.

Despite the hysteria and abject lies that the National Rifle Association somehow “owns” all Republicans, there have been two bipartisan attempts over the last two decades to provide a database for the purpose of informed weapons sales to individuals with neither a criminal background nor a mental health issue that would make these purchases, and therefore possessions, illegal.

Since 1995, two legislative efforts have already garnered enough votes to pass and become law, but the information placed into those databases is either incomplete, erroneous or underutilized.

With a Republican Congress and a Democrat president in the mid 1990s, the National Criminal History Improvement Act was, according to the program’s website, made law to “improve the nations safety and security by enhancing the quality, completeness, and accessibility of criminal history record information and by ensuring the nationwide implementation of criminal justice and noncriminal justice background check systems.”

The decades-old initiative uses grants, training and technological assistance in a carrot-only approach with no stick should states not participate fully to provide results.

Next, the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 appropriated millions of dollars to include pertinent mental health information that would impact a legal firearms sale or transfer of possession. This bill was successful with a Democrat congressional majority and a Republican president following the Virginia Tech campus shooting at the hands of a student with a mental health diagnosis and under current treatment at the time.

So, despite leftist fearmongering and lies, the NRA’s position remains consistent on this third attempt to encourage lawful and responsible sales and possessions of weapons. Speaking to NBC News, “The National Rifle Association has long supported the inclusion of all appropriate records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”

Even the bill’s sponsor on Thursday noted this is no silver bullet. Cornyn stated, “For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence.” He referenced financial incentives that will drive compliance but did include comment directed at penalizing federal agencies “that do a bad job” of providing current data to make the NICS operational.

Specifically, according to Reason’s Christian Britschgi, the third iteration of the law “would require every federal agency, within a year, to create a plan to do better job of handing over records to the federal background check system.” For those agencies failing to meet this legislative goal, “the bill would deny bonuses to these agencies’ political appointees.” Further, grants will be made available to states who produce similar plans for implementation.

Will this proposal produce the desired results of a functional database? Well, in addition to the grant funding that will be available as an incentive, the dramatic culture change within the Trump administration — which isn’t fixated on paying for sex change surgeries in the military or boys being able to use the girls bathrooms — maybe the U.S. Armed Forces and our Department of Justice will be able to do work that sees critical information reach the right hands in the transaction of gun sales and purchases.

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