I asked Sen. Cornyn to explain the bill, and he responded thusly:
Like every Texan, I want to prevent violent crime, and I believe this begins with fully enforcing existing gun laws. The federal government has not adequately enforced the 2007 NICS Improvement Amendments Act (P. L. 110-180), a law that is supported by organizations ranging from the National Rifle Association to the Brady Campaign. Passed unanimously by Congress, this law requires states to submit criminal history and mental health records of individuals who are adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others in order to prevent them from legally purchasing firearms. This includes felons, domestic violence perpetrators, and other dangerous individuals.
To prevent these individuals from illegally purchasing firearms, dealers are required to run an FBI background check on all individuals who attempt to purchase a firearm. This system, known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), relies on the sharing of records by federal agencies and state governments to ensure that individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm are not able to obtain them illegally.
Unfortunately, federal agencies and state governments often fail to upload relevant information to NICS—allowing dangerous individuals and violent criminals to obtain firearms. This failure to share information had tragic consequences in multiple mass-violence events. This failure to share information had tragic consequences in multiple mass-violence events, including Blacksburg, Virginia (2007); Charleston, South Carolina (2015); and Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017). In each of these cases, a dangerous individual who was prohibited from purchasing firearms was able to pass a NICS Background Check despite criminal or mental health records that were not uploaded to the system.
To this end, I introduced the bipartisan Fix NICS Act (S. 2135) on November 15, 2017 to help prevent future tragedies and ensure the integrity of our criminal background check system. S. 2135 would require 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. Federal agencies will be held accountable if they fail to upload relevant records to the background check system through public reporting and prohibiting bonus pay for political appointees. S. 2135 would reward states who comply with NICS implementation plans through federal grant preferences and incentives. Also, this legislation would create a Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative to ensure that a felon or domestic abuser is excluded from purchasing firearms.
I also believe improving mental health is another way to prevent violent crime. On August 5, 2015, I introduced the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015 (S. 2002), which was later included in the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, and was signed into law last year (P.L. 114-255). This legislation enhances the ability of local communities to identify and treat potentially dangerous, mentally-ill individuals. The law also includes reforms to increase the use of treatment-based alternatives for mentally-ill offenders, and improve crisis response and prevention by state and local law enforcement officials. The bill was endorsed by a diverse group of organizations, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Association of Police Organizations.
This is the debate we should be having—a debate that focuses on the root causes of mass violence, fully enforcing current law, and addressing improvements for mental health care in America. We can tackle these problems without curtailing Second Amendment rights, and I will continue to push for effective solutions that protect communities while preserving our constitutional liberties.
The only thing in the text of the bill that bothers me is that federal agency supervisors would be punished for non-compliance by having their payroll bonuses withheld!? What? They now get a bonus for complying? Sheesh.
I can see how Cornyn's cohorts upset some gun owners. If Cornyn really wanted to do some good, he could push for national reciprocity of state carry permits. Now THAT'S a bill I could back!
- Dr. Gatling