Third Way Statement in Support of Congressman Thompson's Amendment Funding the NICS Improvement Act
May 28, 2014
In October 2003, Third Way—as its precursor organization Americans for Gun Safety—teamed up with the National Rifle Association to help draft legislation introduced by two NRA board members, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), and two gun safety stalwarts, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY). The NICS Improvement Act was ultimately sponsored by 5 Republican Senators and 11 Republican House Members, including conservative Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John McCain (R-AZ), and Mike DeWine (R-OH), as well as Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH). In 2007, the NICS Improvement Amendments Act passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President George W. Bush. The impetus behind the legislation was to improve the instant background check system for gun sales to make it both faster and more accurate. Rarely has legislation united both sides of the gun divide in Congress as did this piece of legislation.
In the bill, Congress promised to give money to states to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database—particularly around getting more disqualifying domestic violence and mental illness records into the system. It has been a slow process, but many states have painstakingly improved their databases. Yet the job is not nearly complete, and states have requested a sum total of $78 million this year to get their background check systems in order—a number that falls nearly $20 million short of what Congress has proposed to appropriate. Everyone was on board when this legislation became law 7 years ago, and everyone should be on board now as states request the money they need to make instant background checks truly instant and accurate.
This week, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) has introduced an amendment to fulfill the promise that NRA board members Larry Craig and John Dingell made seven years ago—a promise made by President Bush as well when he signed the bill into law, and a promise made by gun safety advocates when they agreed to the compromise with the NRA. The promise was to fix NICS once and for all. Republicans, Democrats, gun rights advocates, and gun safety advocates should support the Thompson amendment to do just that.
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