On Thursday, the US House of Representatives voted 260 to 145 in favor of an amendment that will provide an additional $19.5 million for the FBI’s National Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to help states improve their data gathering and submission systems. The amendment was included as a part of HR 4660, which funds the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, NASA, and other related agencies. The supplementary $19.5 million brings the total NICS allocation in 2015 to $78 million.
The amendment was authored by US Representatives Pete King (R-NY), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Joe Heck (R-NV), Mike Quigly (D-IL), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA). In a joint press release the representatives emphasized the need for improving how NICS gathers data, and the funds needed to make those improvements.
“Our national criminal background check system is only as good as the data you put in it, and right now all the information isn’t getting into the system,” said the six Representatives in a statement. “When this happens, we can’t enforce the law, and criminals, domestic abusers, or dangerously mentally ill individuals who otherwise wouldn’t pass a background check can slip through the cracks and buy guns. Our bipartisan amendment addresses this dangerous shortfall of information by providing states with the resources they need to get their records into the criminal background checks system.”
Represenative Thompson, chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, introduced the amendment on Wednesday night by drawing attention to how NICS can be improved.
“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,” Thompson said. “Six states have fewer than 30 total records in the NICS system. And 12 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.”
Thompson further stated that funding to NICS was increased to $59 million last year, but nearly $20 million in requests from states went unfunded. The year before that, funding was as low as $18 million.
“Everyday our background checks system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun,” Thompson said. “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.”
The amendment is supported by Everytown for Gun Safety, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and the Sandy Hook Promise.
The House measure now heads to the Senate for approval.