Dana Loesch; Cory Gardner (Credit: Getty/Alex Wong/AP/Alex Brandon/Salon)
To hear the folks at the National Rifle Association tell it, they are great lovers of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and believe that the federal government needs to fix its flaws. Those failings can mean that lead people who ought to be legally prohibited from buying guns are sneaking through anyway, due to incomplete reporting from states and federal agencies.
“The National Rifle Association originated the National Instant Check System. It was our bill,” Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, declared at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch took it a step further and blamed the supposed liberal media for NICS failures, asking, “Where are the stories about how 38 states submit less than 80 percent of criminal convictions to the background check system?” and saying, “I have to question whether they want this system to fail.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, seemingly took the NRA’s comments at face value and introduced the Fix NICS Act of 2017, which is supposed to help improve recordkeeping and stop people like Dylann Roof and Devin Patrick Kelley — two mass shooters who should have failed to pass a background check, but didn’t — from getting guns. He introduced the bill in November, with the public support of the NRA. Mysteriously, the bill has gone nowhere in Congress.
The entire saga of the Fix NICS Act offers an important glimpse into the labyrinthine politics of gun control. It’s a system where the NRA proposes “compromise” bills that allow Republicans to look sensible about gun control, and then the organization goes out of its way to undermine even those minor reforms. The result, intended or otherwise, is that the NRA and Republican legislators can claim to care about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, while doing little or nothing toward accomplishing that goal.
The first thing to understand about Fix NICS is that it’s “just the tiniest of baby steps,” said Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
“This bill plays very much into the conservative sentiment that we should enforce the existing laws,” Gardiner continued, but “nothing about the Fix NICS bill changes who is allowed to buy a gun, or the standards for how any of this is done.”
“We think Fix NICS is important,” said Jonas Oransky, deputy legal director of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We have, in the past, seen a cynical effort from the gun lobby to promote solutions that are not the most effective ones and are attempts to distract from the highest priority. The system is not going to be comprehensive until background checks are required on all gun sales.”
Both the Brady Campaign and Everytown support Fix NICS, but both organizations think it doesn’t go far enough, especially since the proposed law fails to address the fact that people who buy guns from unlicensed online dealers or …read more