NICS Improvement Act of 2007

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This is an article about a piece of legislation introduced in the 110th Congress. View this bill on OpenCongress.

The NICS Improvement Act of 2007 (H.R.297) is a gun control measure which was introduced in the House on January 5, 2007 by Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) with co-sponsor John Dingell (D-Mich.). It would amend the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993.

Provisions

The measure would amend the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 to require the head of each federal agency that has records relating to persons for whom receipt of a firearm would violate federal or state law to provide that information to the Attorney General for inclusion into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). In addition, it would require the agency, upon being made aware that the basis under which a record was made available no longer applies, to correct the record and notify the Attorney General and the the Secretary of Homeland Security. It would also have to make available to the Attorney General records relevant to a determination that a person is disqualified from possessing or receiving a firearm and information about a change in such person's status for removal from NICS, where appropriate.[1]

The bill would also direct the Attorney General to make grants to states and Indian tribal governments to[2]:

  • Establish or upgrade information and identification technologies for firearms eligibility determinations
  • Improve the automation and transmittal to federal and state record repositories of criminal history dispositions, records relevant to determining whether a person has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, court orders, and mental health adjudications or commitments.[3]

The bill would require the Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics to study and evaluate NICS operations and to report annually to Congress and to specified states regarding best practices; and the Comptroller General to conduct an audit of the expenditure of all funds appropriated for criminal records improvement to determine how the funds were expended. [4]

Main article: U.S. gun control legislation

Action on the bill

On January 5, 2007, the bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and on then to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on February 2.[5]

On January 17, 2007, McCarthy noted on the House floor that, "Since 1994 more than 700,000 individuals were denied a gun for failing their background check. However, the NICS system is only as good as the information in its database...[and that] 25 States have automated less than 60 percent of their felony convictions into the NICS system." Additionally, "In 13 States, domestic violence and restraining orders are not accessible through the NICS system." She also noted that "the NICS Improvement Act already passed the House in the 107th Congress by voice vote. Last Congress, a Judiciary subcommittee passed the measure" but the measure did not get out of committee. [6]

On January 29, 2007, McCarthy noted that the bill would address the problem that "One percent of gun owners sell 50 percent of the guns used in crime in this country." She also advocated for local and state law enforcement being able to use tracking data without without asking the ATF's permission first. [7]

In early June 2007, the National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsed the bill following negotiations with Reps. McCarthy and Dingell. In exchange for the NRA's support of the bills provisions to improve the updating of information into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the changes to the bill included protecting the ability of veterans designated as having psychological conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and individuals successfully treated for mental illness to purchase guns. Following the endorsement, the bill was expected to reach the House floor sometime in mid-June.[8]


Co-sponsors

The bill gained three co-sponsors January 30 to February 14 and an additional eleven through May 1, following the April 16, 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech,[9], including Rick Boucher, (D-Va.), who represents Blacksburg and has an A+ rating from the NRA [10] and Jim Moran (D-Va.), who is a regular supporter of gun contol legislation, and thus receives a grade of F from the NRA. [11] By June 6 it had gained an additional four co-sponsors, bringing the total to eighteen, as follows:[12]

House passage

The text of the bill, as a separate bill (H.R.2640) also introduced by McCarthy, passed the House by voice vote on June 13, 2007. [13]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.2640" />

Senate action

After quick passage in the House, the bill faced more uncertainty in the Senate. Gun rights groups, including Gun Owners of America, came out against the measure, and began lobbying Senators against the bill, several of whom have declared their opposition. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that he will not seek to amend the bill, a deal key to maintaining the NRA's endorsement of the bill, in an attempt to assure wavering Senators.[14]

Criticism and commendation

Commendation

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which supported the measure explained [15] that the NICS contains records on criminals, drug addicts, domestic abusers and others prohibited from buying guns. However, because many states did not forward all relevant records, there were many gaps in the federal NICS - gaps exploited by people who were prohibited from buying guns.

Washington Post Staff Writer Jonathan Weisman reported on April 20, 2007 that "Rep. John D. Dingell (Mich.), a gun-rights Democrat who once served on the NRA's board of directors, is leading talks with the powerful gun lobby in hopes of producing a deal by early next week."[16]

Keith O'Brien wrote in PR Week USA on April 24, 2007, [17] that "One such bill that enjoys support from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun control advocates is H.R. 297, which would "improve availability of criminal history and other records for conducting background checks on firearm buyers."

The NRA posted a statement on its website on April 27, 2007, "It is impossible to predict right now what any final bill will look like; therefore, we will withhold judgment until we see a final product. However, the NRA will continue to work with Members of Congress throughout the process to ensure that any changes to the NICS benefit lawful gun purchasers while ensuring that those adjudicated by the courts as mentally incompetent are included in the system.

"Including necessary records on prohibited persons into the NICS is a position we have long supported. However, history has shown that no law will stop a madman intent on doing evil." [18]

Criticism

On January 23, 2007, Gun Owners of America sent out a legislative alert that the measure "could prove to be the most serious threat to the Second Amendment we face under the new congressional leadership...the most massive expansion of the Brady law since it passed in 1993. This is a bill you helped kill last year, but the new House leadership will be even more eager to pass it than were their predecessors." [19]. The group sent out additional alerts on March 22, 2007 [20], April 17, 2007[21], April 23, 2007[22], and April 26, 2007[23]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch resources

Sources

  1. Library of Congress Thomas legislative information site
  2. Library of Congress Thomas legislative information site
  3. Library of Congress Thomas legislative information site
  4. Library of Congress Thomas legislative information site
  5. Library of Congress Thomas legislative information site.
  6. Congressional Record, 110th Congreess, page H637, January 17, 2007.
  7. Congressional Record, 110th Congreess, page H665-6, January 29, 2007.
  8. Seth Stern, "House May Act Fast on Gun Control Bill, Energized by Virginia Tech Shootings," CQ, June 11, 2007.
  9. Library of Congress Thomas legislative information site
  10. Project Vote Smart Gun Issue Ratings by Interest Groups for Representative Boucher accessed on May 2, 2007
  11. Project Vote Smart Gun Issue Ratings by Interest Groups for Representative Moran accessed on May 2, 2007
  12. THOMAS: H.R. 297
  13. Jim Abrams, "House tempers background checks for guns," Associated Press (via Yahoo News), June 13, 2007.
  14. Seth Stern, "Gun Control Bill’s Senate Outlook Uncertain," CQ, June 13, 2007.
  15. Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence Federal legislation page accessed April 26, 2007
  16. Jonathan Weisman, "Dingell, NRA Working on Bill to Strengthen Background Checks", Washington Post, April 20, 2000.
  17. Keith O'Brien,"Gun-control debate has spotlight - for now: VA Tech tragedy has put the issue center stage, but keeping it there will be a challenge for both sides", PR Week, April 24, 2004.
  18. National Rifle Association Insstitute for Legislative Action, "NRA Statement On Legislative Efforts On Capitol Hill" April 27, 2007, website accessed May 2, 2007
  19. Gun Owners of America Action Alert for January 23, 2007
  20. Gun Owners of America Action Alert for March 22, 2007
  21. Gun Owners of America Action Alert for April 17, 2007
  22. Gun Owners of America Action Alert for April 13, 2007
  23. Gun Owners of America Action Alert for April 26, 2007.

External resources

External articles