Multiple States Miss Reporting Deadline For Improving FBI Background Checks

Apr 3, 2019

Multiple states missed a March 25 deadline to submit plans for bulking up the information states report to the FBI’s background check system for gun purchases.

This comes a year after President Donald Trump signed legislation requiring states and federal agencies to add more records to the database gun dealers use when running a background check during a gun purchase.

Almost a week after the deadline, 46 states and the District of Columbia had submitted the required plans, according to U.S. Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle. The Justice Department has not yet released the list of states that failed to meet the deadline.

The Fix NICS Act

In November 2017, just a week after a shooter took the lives of 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, lawmakers introduced legislation aimed at fixing the FBI’s faulty National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

The NICS database is supposed to prevent criminals from being able to buy a gun by flagging disqualifying factors like prior felony convictions. That won’t happen if the purchaser’s charges are not listed in the database.

The Air Force failed to report the Sutherland Springs gunman’s domestic abuse convictions, which should have disqualified him from buying a gun, to the database multiple times.

The data states submit to the NICS system is voluntary and many records are never uploaded to the system. At least 25 percent of felony convictions are not available in NICS, according to a 2013 report by the nonprofit National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics.

Enter: the Fix NICS Act.

The law requires states to create a detailed implementation plan to improve what they report to NICS.

States are given incentives, such as preference for Justice Department grants, for complying.

“This bill aims to fix what’s become a nationwide, systemic problem,” said Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who co-authored the legislation after the shooting. “So we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.”

States had one year to submit their plans, making the deadline March 25, 2019.

The Department of Justice has until the end of the fiscal year in September to disclose which states are not in compliance. Congress will be given a summary of the plans.

In February, Cornyn, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, and several other senators sent a letter with 22 questions to Barr, asking for an update on the performance of the NICS system and urging compliance with the Fix NICS Act.

Fix NICS letter by KERANews on Scribd

Cassandra Crifasi, a professor with the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore, said the law will help states identify weaknesses in what they report to the FBI’s background check database.

“I think the main goal of the Fix NICS Act is to sort of try to fill in those gaps,” Crifasi said. “Elements that make it too easy for states to either delay reporting or not report at all.”

Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.


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