CHAIRMAN THOMPSON OFFERS BIPARTISAN AMENDMENT TO STRENGTHEN BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM
WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5), chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, today offered a bipartisan amendment with U.S. Reps. Pete King (R-NY), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Joe Heck (R-NV), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS). The amendment provides an additional $19.5 million to help states improve their submissions into the criminal background checks system, brining NICS funding for Fiscal Year 2015 to $78 million. The amendment will be voted on tomorrow.
Every day, the background checks system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun. However, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the database used to determine whether or not a prospective buyer is eligible to buy a firearm, is missing valuable information. Because of this, dangerous people who otherwise wouldn't pass a background check can slip through the cracks and buy guns.
The text of Thompson’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“And thank you Mr. Wolf for all your years of outstanding service to this fine institution.
“Everyone agrees that we don’t want criminals, domestic abusers, or the dangerously mentally ill getting guns. And the first step in stopping this is through background checks.
“But the background check system is only as good as the data you put in it. And right now, all the information isn’t getting in. When the information doesn’t get into the system, we can’t enforce the law, and dangerous people who otherwise wouldn't pass a background check can slip through the cracks and buy guns.
“A recent USA Today report found that in just five states, records for at least 2.5 million fugitives weren’t entered into the NICS system.
“6 states have fewer than 30 total records in the NICS system.
“And12 states have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records to the NICS system. When states fail to submit these records, there is nothing to stop a dangerously mentally ill person from passing a background check and buying a gun. This is exactly what happened at Virginia Tech.
“My bipartisan amendment will address this dangerous shortfall. It provides an additional $19.5 million to help states improve their submissions into the criminal background checks system. It will bring NICS grant funding to $78 million.
“Many people on both sides of the aisle have already supported funding at levels much higher than this. After the Virginia Tech shooting, Congress unanimously enacted legislation that authorized DOJ to provide up to nearly $190 million per year to help states improve submissions into the NICS system.
“The NRA supported it too. Wayne LaPierre said, ‘Our members don't want mental defectives and criminals buying handguns, we supported the background checks and support the money to make it work effectively.’
“But since the unanimous passage of this NICS improvement legislation, Congress hasn’t come close to appropriating these funds.
“In FY2013, Congress appropriated just $18 million.
“Last year, we started moving in the right direction. We increased funding to almost $59 million. While this was a good bump, it wasn’t enough – because also last year, almost $20 million in requests from states went unfunded.
“Our states need more resources to get all their information into the NICS system. If we give them these resources, we can stop dangerous people from getting guns. And we can save lives.
“Everyday our background checks system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun.
“But millions of dangerous purchasers could be passing background checks when they shouldn't be – all because states don’t have the money they need to get records into the criminal background check system.
“Mr. Chairman, this is dangerous. We can only stop criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill from getting guns if their information is in the system.
“So let’s pass this amendment. Let’s give our states the resources they need to keep people safe.”
Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties. He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep. Thompson is also a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and chairs the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.
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