By Lucia Bragg
The Fix NICS Act (SB 2135), was introduced by U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Nov. 15 and awaits action in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill seeks to improve data gathering and reporting requirements in place under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is designed to maintain a comprehensive account of people with high-risk characteristics for use during firearm purchases. SB2135 aims to improve the quality of the database so people trying to buy guns can be screened with the most up-to-date information.
The legislation follows a handful of mass shootings over the past decade that have involved a breakdown in the screening process because of a failure to update the system with critical records. These include violent events in Blacksburg, Va., in 2007, Charleston, S.C., in 2015 and Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier this month.
The legislation aims to incentivize rather than coerce state action. It would require states to submit NICS implementation plans outlining improved policies around system data entry, including methods to verify data accuracy and annual benchmarks. Public reporting requirements in the bill would hold both federal agencies and states accountable for failing to upload relevant data into the system, while grant preferences and incentives would reward states for compliance. The bill also would establish the Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative to provide give adequate resources to properly relay when domestic abusers or felons should be barred from purchasing a firearm.
The bill would also reauthorize relevant programs:
- National Criminal History Improvement (NCHIP), which provides states grants and technical assistance to ensure states can make criminal history records available in an efficient, accurate, and accessible manner.
- NICS Act Record Improvement (NARIP), which aims to improve the timeliness with which criminal history records are uploaded to NICS by providing states grants, direction, and setting benchmarks.
Lucia Bragg is a policy associate with NCSL's State-Federal Relations Division.