Mayor Bloomberg, Senator Schumer and Members of Congress Including Representative McCarthy Announce Legislation to Fix Gun Background Check System

Mar 15, 2011, 13:40 ET from Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Legislation Modeled After Mayors Against Illegal Guns Proposal Increases Penalties for States that Fail to Report Drug Abusers, Domestic Violence Offenders and the Mentally Ill to National Do-Not-Sell List; Would Also Close Loophole That Allows Criminals to Evade Background Checks

According to Poll, 86% of Americans – Including 81% of Gun Owners – Favor Background Checks for all Gun Sales;  90% of Americans and 90% of Gun Owners Support Fixing Gaps in NICS Database

NEW YORK, March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mayors Against Illegal Guns co-chair and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Senator Charles E. Schumer and members of the House of Representatives including Representative Carolyn McCarthy today announced a House bill that would fix the nation's broken background check system.

The legislation would require states to improve their reporting of records on criminals, drug abusers, domestic violence offenders and the seriously mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  The bill would ramp up penalties for states that fail to adequately turn over records of these categories of dangerous individuals who are already barred by federal law from owning a gun.  The legislation will also require that all gun sales, including those by private sellers, be subject to a background check.

The legislation is based on a proposal put forward by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, a partnership of more than 550 mayors who work for common-sense solutions to fight gun crime.

Senator Schumer recently introduced similar legislation in the Senate. The Mayor, Senator Schumer and Representative McCarthy were joined by Representatives Judy Chu; David Cicilline; Chaka Fattah; Marcia Fudge; Raul Grijalva; Hank Johnson; Caroline Maloney; Doris Matsui; Jim Moran and Mike Quigley.

"Too often, any serious discussion about guns devolves into ideological arguments that have nothing to do with the real problem," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Our coalition strongly believes in the Second Amendment.  We also know from experience that we can keep guns away from dangerous people without imposing burdens on law-abiding gun owners.  This legislation, sponsored by Senator Schumer in the Senate, and now Representative McCarthy in the House, will give us a working background check system with no loopholes, which is what Americans want and deserve."

"Everyone can agree that too many people die and get injured by gunfire in America," said Representative McCarthy. "Keeping the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous individuals – already the law in our nation but under-enforced – is a common-sense approach that we are working hard with Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Schumer to advance."

"Today, we have a broken background check system," said Representative Chu. "The laws on the books aren't being properly enforced.  More than half of the states are not even submitting the appropriate records to NICS leaving the system spotty and full of holes.  That's why we need a bill that will fix the gun background checks system, one that closes loopholes that allow wrongdoers to buy firearms.  Then we will have a system that saves American lives and protects people from harm."

"As a founding member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition and now a Member of Congress, I know one of the greatest threats to peace in our communities is gun violence," said Rep. Cicilline. "While our coalition fully supports the Second Amendment, we know from experience in our cities that we need to do  more to make sure we keep guns out of the hands of criminals, drug abusers, domestic violence offenders and the seriously mentally ill. This common-sense legislation closes existing loopholes in the gun background check system in a way that better protects our neighborhoods against gun violence but does not impose additional restrictions on law-abiding gun owners."

"Last year, the Supreme Court made clear that we can protect both the 2nd amendment and our citizens," said Rep. Mike Quigley.  "Now it's time for Congress to marginalize the extremes of this debate, close the gun show loophole, and strengthen our laws already on the books.  Ultimately, we can keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, felons, and the mentally ill and protect children in Chicago and the safety of all Americans."  

Common Sense Legislation to Fix Background Checks

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was put in place to facilitate background checks on prospective gun buyers and ensure that dangerous people do not have legal access to firearms. Federal law requires that drug abusers, the mentally ill, domestic violence perpetrators and others who are prohibited by state and federal law from having guns be included in this national do-not-sell list. The NICS database, however, is missing millions of records due to lax reporting among the states and, in some instances, federal agencies.

According to a recent analysis by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 28 states have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records to the federal database. Ten states have submitted none.

Both Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner and Virginia Tech shooter Seung Hoi-Cho were not reported to the NICS database, despite the fact that Loughner was rejected by the Army for habitual drug use and Hoi-Cho was prohibited from owning a gun because of mental illness.

The legislation introduced by Senator Schumer and Representative McCarthy would boost incentives for states to comply with reporting requirements by cutting escalating amounts of their Justice Department grant funding for noncompliance. Today, states that fail to report to the NICS database 50 percent or more of the records they have on prohibited purchasers face penalties of up to a 3 percent cut in their Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding. The legislation would increase the reporting requirement to 75 percent by FY2013 and 90 percent by FY2018, with JAG funding penalties increased to 15 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

The bill would also require federal agencies to certify twice a year to the U.S. Attorney General that they have submitted all relevant records to the NICS database.

Additionally, the legislation closes the private sale loophole.  Under current law, only federally licensed firearm dealers must conduct background checks.  Around 40 percent of U.S. gun sales, however, are conducted by individuals who are not licensed dealers and are not required to run checks.  The bill would require these private sellers to verify, either with local law enforcement or through certified gun dealers, that the person they are selling a gun to is not on the national NICS list.

Widespread Support to Fix Gun Checks

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns plan to fix the background check system by adding records and closing loopholes enjoys widespread support from a host of current and former government and elected officials, including Richard Thornburgh, former Attorney General to Presidents Reagan and Bush; Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General to President George W. Bush; and others.

According to a national bi-partisan survey conducted by a bipartisan polling team for Mayors Against Illegal Guns on January 18, more than 80 percent of the public – including more than 70 percent of gun owners – support tougher laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.  

About Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Since its inception in April 2006, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown from 15 mayors to more than 550. Mayors Against Illegal Guns has united the nation's mayors around these common goals: protecting their communities by holding gun offenders and irresponsible gun dealers accountable, demanding access to trace data that is critical to law enforcement efforts to combat illegal gun trafficking, and working with legislators to fix gaps, weaknesses and loopholes in the law that make it far too easy for criminals and other prohibited purchasers to get guns.

SOURCE Mayors Against Illegal Guns