In a surprise move, the US House of Representatives today passed a bill which provides incentives for states to enhance and computerize criminal and mental health records and make such records available to the FBI's National Instant Check System (NICS).
While The Firearms Coalition has consistently opposed previous versions of this bill, we do not oppose the bill as it was passed by the House today.
H.R.2640, sponsored by New York Democrat Carolyn McCarthy, is a modified version of a bill Rep. McCarthy has offered in each of the past several sessions of Congress. This version of the bill was just introduced this past Monday (June 11) and differs from previous versions in that it includes several provisions for the removal of names arbitrarily added to the NICS list and to ensure ways for a person who is on the list to regain their rights. These provisions were negotiated by the NRA over the past several weeks.
This bill is Congress' response to the murders of 32 students at Virginia Tech last month and was fast-tracked straight to the House floor, bypassing the normal committee process – and public scrutiny.
The Senate is expected to deviate from their traditional, drawn out deliberative process and vote on the bill in the next few days. It is clear that the skids are greased and I would be very surprised if the Senate doesn't pass this bill and send it up to the President for his guaranteed signature.
There has been much argument within the gun-rights community about this bill, NRA's support for past versions, and their participation in reaching a passable "compromise." Much of the opposition seems to be more concerned with the idea of dealing with long-time enemies than with the actual impact the bill will have.
The Firearms Coalition has opposed passage of McCarthy's previous "NICS Improvement" bills because we are opposed to the entire concept of the NICS program, oppose throwing another Billion dollars at this expensive placebo with little, if any, impact on crime, and we were concerned about language which would snare more individuals into prohibited status. We were critical of NRA and NSSF for supporting the bills and critical of GOA for over-hyping the potential negative impacts of the bills.
With the negotiated language of the new bill, reduced negative impact, and inclusion of some very specific, positive improvements to the NICS system, we feel that, though it is still a large-scale waste of taxpayer money, this is not a gun control bill and the good in this bill outweighs the bad.
We would like to have seen implementation of the financial incentives included in this bill predicated on a thorough study of the efficacy of NICS in reducing crime and a thorough cost/benefit analysis, but the window for such a requirement has likely closed.
There has never been a serious study to determine what – if any – impact the multi-Billion dollar NICS program has had on violent crime and criminal misuse of firearms. Instead, every evaluation of NICS has been based on the number of transactions and denials the system processes and how quickly they do their job. Stopping sales does not necessarily equate to reducing crime and it is well past time for the Government Accounting Office and the Justice Department to examine the true value of this expensive intrusion on civil rights.
Since NICS already exists, this bill contains no new or expanded restrictions on firearms ownership, and there is little likelihood of gaining the included, much needed reforms in any other way, therefore it is prudent and responsible to accept this bill as it is written.
Until NICS is completely repealed, it makes sense to take real improvements when we can get them.
As always, we will keep you posted as the – probably brief – debate over this bill plays out.
Yours for the Second Amendment,
Director of Operations
The Firearms Coalition