Second Amendment advocates who regularly stress the need to enforce existing gun laws rather than forging new laws should welcome Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s Fix NICS Act, which proposes to do just that. Crafted in the wake of the Nov. 5 Sutherland Springs massacre that claimed the lives of 26 people, coldly struck down as they worshipped in church, this bill would bolster efforts to see federal and state authorities comply with existing laws and accurately report criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
It’s about time. Americans have endured years of shooting massacres without much in the way of attempted solutions from Congress. Thoughts and prayers from politicians are fine, but they’re no balm when those whom God endows with intelligence and ability fail to take action to protect the innocent. And while the Trib can think of more aggressive, common-sense gun-control measures, Cornyn’s bill at least makes an attempt to address what gun-rights advocates advise: Enforce laws already on the books. Make sure we keep guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers and the mentally ill.
The tragedy of Sutherland Springs offers a perfect example of the problem: Devin P. Kelley, 26, perpetrator of the crime, was discharged from the Air Force in 2013 for “bad conduct” after being convicted of two counts of domestic violence and serving eight months in prison — good enough, under the law, to preclude his being sold a firearm. However, the Air Force failed to enter his conviction into the national database. Result: He passed federal background checks when purchasing two firearms here in Texas, one in 2016, one in 2017.
Sen. Cornyn tells us the Fix NICS Act would require federal agencies and states to produce NICS implementation plans 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 accuracy of records. It would hold federal agencies accountable for any failures, including prohibitions of bonus pay for political appointees. It would encourage prompt and efficient compliance by the states, rewarding those that excel with federal-grant preferences. It also directs more federal funding toward accurate reporting of domestic violence records.
We’re encouraged by bipartisan work on this bill. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, a strong advocate for gun control since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 20 children and six adults in his home state of Connecticut, is among those working across the aisle with Cornyn and other Republicans. “It’s no secret that I believe much more needs to be done,” Murphy said. “But this bill will make sure that thousands of dangerous people are prevented from buying guns. It represents the strongest update to the background-checks system in a decade and provides the foundation for more compromise in the future.” Perhaps recognizing things are getting out of hand, even the NRA endorses this legislation. We only regret such initiative wasn’t shown much sooner.