Congresswoman Karen Handel ( R-GA -06), who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, voted Thursday to correct deficiencies in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS (HR 4447). The House’s primary bill sponsor is John Culberson (R-TX-07).
The bill passed the committee 17-6 with bipartisan support.
The purpose of the bill is to correct underreporting or disqualifying records to the FBI, so firearms don’t fall into wrong hands. The bill comes in the wake of the shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooter passed an FBI background check and purchased a gun because the Air Force failed to report his criminal records to the NICS. The shooting left 26 people dead.
However, some pro-gun groups in Georgia quickly blasted Handel on social media for her vote saying that her vote aligned with longtime anti-gun advocate, Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein from California, who is listed as a co-sponsor on the Senate version of Fix NCIB Act. (S. 2135), whose primary sponsor is Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn.
The group, Georgia Gun Owners, stated on their social media page, they asked Handel to vote no on the measure, and she voted for it anyway. The gun group also chastised Georgia Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA-09), who is also on the same committee with Handel, for abstaining. However, according to sources, Collins was working on other legislative business within the Capitol Hill the day of the committee vote.
The Georgia Gun Owners’ website states they “don’t give an inch” and they are “Georgia’s only No Compromise gun rights organization,” and this would include changes to the NICS.
AllOnGeorgia reached out to Georgia Gun Owners, and they stated they do not support any gun control measure that received the backing of Diane Feinstein.
“We see no need to make a deal with Feinstein,” said Georgia Gun Owners.
Georgia Gun Owners contends that background check system will not prevent future mass shootings. AllOnGeorgia asked what states like Georgia could do against unintended consequences of the legislation, but their replies continued to reject the new measure and referred to a statement from the national affiliate that states the following:
Gun Owners of America condemns the committee’s approval of the ‘Traffic Ticket Gun Ban’ (H.R. 4477). This deceptive legislation would add hundreds of thousands of additional names into the NICS system, thus blocking thousands of lawful gun owners from purchasing guns for offenses as slight as unpaid traffic tickets. Not only that, it would lay the groundwork for an anti-gun administration to troll every government health and welfare program for the purpose of imposing gun bans on recipients with PTSD, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s — the latter would jeopardize the inheritance of many valuable gun collections. The Obama administration already tried to do this with Social Security disability. In the future, there may not be a pro-gun Congress to disapprove similar moves or a pro-gun president to sign it.
But not all pro-gun groups agree.
The National Rifle Association is supporting both House and Senate bills, and they released a statement saying they would not oppose the proposed changes to the NICS. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) tells their supporters on their website to call their Congressman in support of the measure.
The NSSF’s website also has been campaigning for better quality background checks and has helped 16 states improve their reporting to the NCIS. According to their website, the National Shooting Sports Foundation represents over 13,000 firearms and ammunition manufacturers, retailers, and ranges. Our members are committed to following the law and promoting safe, legal transfer of firearms.
NSSF’s website also states that the firearms industry obtained data from the FBI showing that at the end of 2012, far too many states failed to submit these records that established someone is prohibited from owning a firearm under current law. At that time, 19 states had made fewer than 100 records available, and 12 of these had made fewer than 10 records available. Georgia was not part of the 19 states that failed to submit records.
The bill would implement a semi-annual reporting requirement for all military branches to tell Congress and the public how reporting is compiled. Also, the bill states that it will withhold bonuses from political appointees at agencies that do not meet reporting standards. The bill also provides grant awards to states that are meeting reporting goals with the federal government along with incentives to improve and maintain a state’s reporting system. Additional money would be appropriated for technical assistance to help standardize varying definitions that now make reporting cumbersome. The bill states $125,000,000 will be set aside to the states between fiscal years 2018 to 2022.
AllOnGeorgia received a statement from Congresswoman Karen Handel about the newly proposed language updating the NCIS:
The Senate companion to H.R. 4477 was introduced by John Cornyn, a pro-Second Amendment Republican Senator from Texas. The Fix NICS Act will strengthen existing law, rather than creating new gun control measures, to ensure that states are properly reporting those convicted of felonies and/or domestic violence. And by working alongside local governments to enforce existing regulations, the bill ensures that those who aren’t supposed to buy guns cannot buy guns.
Handel’s office used the example of the shooting in Texas as to why the changes are necessary.
Rep. Handel added an amendment that would seek the legal opinion of the attorney general about whether the current criminal law already allows more severe sentences for those who use “bump stocks” in the commission of a crime.
The Fix NCIS bill (HR 4477) is part of a comprehensive gun legislation package being passed in the House alongside the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (HR 38) which allows anyone with a valid concealed-carry permit to transport firearms into other states that allow for concealed-carry permits. This measure is strongly supported by the NRA as well as other pro-gun organizations.
The bill still needs a floor vote in the House and approval in the Senate before heading to President Trump’s desk.
Below are the major aspects of the bill to make changes to background checks.
- Requires 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.
- Holds federal agencies accountable if they fail to upload relevant records to the background check system through public reporting and prohibiting bonus pay for political appointees.
- Rewards states who comply with their NICS implementation plans through federal grant preferences and incentives, while increasing accountability through public reporting for those who do not comply with their plans.
- Reauthorizes and improves important law enforcement programs to help state governments share relevant criminal record information with NICS.
- Creates a Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative to ensure that states have adequate resources and incentives to share all relevant information with NICS showing that a felon or domestic abuser is excluded from purchasing firearms under current law.
- Provides important technical assistance to federal agencies and states who are working to comply with NICS record-sharing requirements.