Gun Background Check Improvement Legislation Passes

June 13, 2007
This afternoon the House passed HR 2640, the National Instant Criminal Background System (NICS) Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 by voice vote. It marks the first gun violence prevention legislation passed in the House in over a decade. Specifically, the bill:

Enforces the provisions of the 1968 Gun Control Act, which has been law for nearly 40 years

Improves the accuracy of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which was created in 1994 -- with many records currently not in the system

Authorizes $375 million a year for three years in grants to states and their courts to import the records of those barred from purchasing a firearm under the 1968 Gun Control Act into the federal NICS system

Protects the privacy of all records, including mental health records, by prohibiting their use for any purpose outside of NICS

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4):

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy:

"The shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre was prohibited from purchasing a firearm. Unfortunately, flaws in the system allowed his record to slip through the cracks. He was able to purchase two-hand guns and use them to brutally murder 32 individuals. Today Congress will stand up for the victims and pass common sense legislation."

Speaker Pelosi:

Nearly two months ago, a great tragedy befell the community of Virginia Tech, and our nation. Thirty-two people lost their lives at the hands of a cold-blooded killer. The victims -- of different backgrounds, and different ages -- represented the best of our country. And our country was unified in its grief and prayers for all those who lost so much that day. The magnitude of their loss is beyond comprehension. This much is clear: when gun violence takes away lives, we all suffer as a nation.

As the Virginia Tech shooting reminded us, there is an urgent national need to improve the background check system to increase the likelihood that those who are barred from guns under current law do not acquire them. Background checks are only as good as the data in the system. Unfortunately, serious gaps exist in the transmittal of these records, allowing thousands of people who are barred from acquiring guns, including those who have been adjudicated as mentally ill, to escape proper background checks.

The bill the House passed today with strong bipartisan support is a step forward in improving our nation's background check system. It authorizes funding and provides practical steps to encourage states to provide timely and accurate information on individuals who are barred under current law from acquiring guns. It requires the Attorney General to work with law enforcement and the mental health community to establish protocols for protecting the privacy of the information sharing.

I hope the Senate takes up the bill immediately and sends it to the President's desk.

Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia issued the following statement this afternoon:

As I prepared to issue Executive Order 50 on May 4, instructing all executive branch agencies to immediately begin including the names of individuals found dangerous and ordered to undergo involuntary mental health treatment in the database accessed before the sale of firearms, I was surprised to learn that Virginia was one of only 22 states reporting any mental health information to NICS. In fact, nearly half of the reports submitted nationally on mentally ill people have been submitted by Virginia.

Today, the House of Representatives took significant action to honor the memories of the victims who lost their lives at Virginia Tech. H.R. 2640 authorizes funding and provides practical steps to encourage every state to provide timely and accurate information on individuals with mental illness who are barred under current law from purchasing guns.

I applaud Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership for 'fast-tracking' this common-sense legislation, and I especially want to salute the efforts of Congressman Rick Boucher, who signed on as an original cosponsor, and worked hard to secure passage of this bill.

Today's House vote is a clear example that policymakers at every level of government are working in a bipartisan and responsible way to promote public safety.