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Broken Background Checks Won't Stop Gun Violence


April 10th, 2013

Chris W. Cox

Editorial in U.S. News & World Report

Members of Congress should reject the idea that expanding a broken background check system will make anyone safer. The American people deserve better than politicians who continue to pursue failed policy agendas. Americans deserve to be safe in their communities and to have their Second Amendment rights respected. We can achieve both.

Congress should support the NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013, introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska. This bill, unlike the false notion of "universal background checks," will improve the current national instant background check system (NICS) by improving the records within it.

We know that NICS needs improvement. The Graham-Begich bill helps fix NICS by clearly spelling out the definition of who is a danger to themselves or others and should not have access to firearms, while protecting the rights of law abiding citizens. In particular, America's veterans should not be deprived of their Second Amendment rights based on a purely administrative finding that they need assistance in managing their financial affairs.

The bill also takes the important step of establishing clear circumstances for the reinstatement of gun ownership rights through judicial action or administrative processes at the federal or state level. If a person is still under any mandatory treatment for a mental disorder that makes him a danger to himself or others, the person would still be prohibited from possessing firearms.

Currently, 23 states submit little or no information on mental health adjudications into NICS. To address this inadequacy, Congress should continue working to improve the background check system by strengthening incentives for states to transmit these records. In addition, it should take steps to address our broken mental health system, ensure that violent criminals are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and protect our children by improving school security.

The Graham-Begich bill is a step in the right direction towards fixing some of the deficiencies within NICS. Expanding NICS to include millions of additional law-abiding citizens without addressing fundamental problems in the current system will not.