The “Fix NICS Act of 2017,” Senate Bill 2135 and House Bill 4434, which was introduced this month with bi-partisan support, is supported by both the NRA and the NSSF. The Fix NICS Act of 2017 is an important piece of legislation for the Industry.  It will improve the records available to NICS and therefore the accuracy of background checks to determine if a prospective purchaser is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm by federal law.  It does not expand the categories of persons prohibited from purchasing a firearm, and does not require the reporting of any additional records that are not already required to be reported to NICS by the Brady Act.  More effective NICS checks can help ensure that a federally licensed firearms dealer does not unknowingly transfer a firearm to a person prohibited by federal law, as recently occurred in the case of the Texas church shooter.  He had been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, but the Air Force never reported his conviction to NICS.  Accordingly, when the dealer conducted a background check on him, it came back as a proceed.

To prevent situations like this from occurring, the Fix NICS Act of 2017 focuses on improving the information available when conducting a NICS background check prior to the transfer of a firearm by requiring the head of each federal department or agency to submit a semi-annual certification regarding whether it is compliant with current law requiring information in its possession to be reported to NICS regarding persons who are prohibited from possessing a firearm pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g) and (n).  This includes persons who have been dishonorably discharged from the military, convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, etc.  It also requires the Attorney General to provide a semi-annual report to Congress identifying those federal agencies that are not compliant with existing reporting requirements.  In order to bring all federal departments and agencies into compliance with existing reporting requirements, the Fix NICS Act of 2017 would prohibit the payment of bonus pay to any political appointee in a non-compliant department or agency.  In addition, the Fix NICS Act of 2017 requires the Attorney General to work with the states to establish a plan for ensuring that appropriate records are forwarded to NICS.  Those states that substantially comply will be eligible for preferences in awarding discretionary federal grants.