It’s chillingly prophetic that, hours before the deadly Nov. 14 school shooting in Santa Clarita, California, a new study confirmed the very steep challenges facing state and federal lawmakers and law enforcement trying to walk a fine line on the Second Amendment. One study finding: Mass shooters targeting campuses and workplaces are all too often students and employees who know the security measures in place — and know how to circumvent them. Another: Almost half of the killers reveal their deadly intent to others beforehand through conversation and/or social media.
Add it all up and you have further evidence of the need for efficient and comprehensive background checks as well as preventative screening measures. Happily, some success is being made at the federal level. On the day of the Santa Clarita shooting, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas announced that, under the Fix NICS Act he helped author last year (and which President Trump has signed into law), all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Indian tribal governments have submitted implementation plans to the Department of Justice, as have 45 federal agencies. More than 6 million records have been added to National Instant Criminal Background Check System databases.
Among other information in the first DOJ report on implementation of the Fix NICS Act: Customs and Border Protection entered some 13 million records for undocumented persons into the background-check system last month. And the number of “firearm retrieval referrals” — which occur when a prohibited person is able to purchase a firearm because the background check could not be concluded within three business days due to incomplete records — reportedly decreased every month in comparison to the previous year. This suggests a robust system working promptly.
Cornyn says that he’s pleased with smart implementation of the 2018 act by the Trump administration but is continuing to address failures such as this summer’s mass shooting in Texas’ Permian Basin (eight dead): “Shortly after the Midland-Odessa shooting, we learned that the shooter failed a background check when he attempted to buy a gun from a licensed dealer. He then managed to circumvent the process by purchasing his weapon from somebody who appears to have been in the business of manufacturing and selling guns but who is not a registered firearms dealer. By not registering as a dealer, the seller was able to skirt the legal requirement and sell a weapon to the shooter without conducting the necessary background check.”
We praise Sen. Cornyn’s continued leadership in common-sense solutions by now pressing the RESPONSE Act, which would encourage Internet service providers and online platforms to share info with law enforcement concerning mass violence, hate crimes or domestic terrorism and would encourage the prosecuting of criminals violating the law by engaging in the business of selling firearms without a license or by providing false statements as part of any background check.