House Republicans push for vote on national instant check system expansion
Nearly two dozen House Republicans are pushing Speaker Paul D. Ryan for a quick vote on a bill to get more records into the national instant check system, as lawmakers search for a legislative response to the most recent mass shooting that has a realistic shot at passing Congress.
The Republicans pushing for the vote say Sen. John Cornyn’s “Fix NICS” bill could help the system flag more people who show signs of violent mental behavior, without infringing on Second Amendment rights.
“The NICS system needs to work better we need to make sure that all the data gets in there. We need to compel states to do that. We need to prevent tragedies,” Rep. Ryan Costello, Pennsylvania Republican and a co-sponsor of the bill, said Monday on MSNBC.
Rep. Leonard Lance, New Jersey Republican, spearheaded the recent letter to Mr. Ryan that he and Mr. Costello signed, along with 17 other Republicans requesting “immediate consideration” of the legislation.
The bill “would greatly improve the sharing of mental health and criminal record information between state and local agencies and the federal background check database,” the lawmakers wrote to Mr. Ryan.
The White House says the bill has Mr. Trump’s support, and the president on Monday praised Mr. Cornyn for his work on the issue.
“He’s already started the process. We’ve already started it,” the president said at a meeting with governors from around the country. “We need strong background checks. For a long period of time, people resisted that. But now people, I think, are really into it.”
The measure builds off a post-Virginia Tech law by providing financial incentives to states that develop plans to supply more records to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
It would also penalize federal agencies that don’t upload the records by, for example, withholding certain bonus pay for political appointees.
Mr. Cornyn, along with Texas Reps. John Culberson, Henry Cuellar, Michael McCaul and several others, introduced the bipartisan measure last year in response to November’s church shooting in Sutherland Springs.
Authorities said the gunman would have been denied a firearm if the Air Force had reported his court-martial and discharge over domestic violence charges.
The GOP-controlled House passed the legislation last year, winning over conservatives by attaching language that would recognize state-issued concealed weapons permits throughout the country.
But some Republicans, including Mr. Cornyn, have said attaching the expanded concealed-carry measure could complicate the bill’s prospects in the Senate, where the GOP needs to win support from at least nine Democrats to break a possible filibuster.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Monday said Mr. Cornyn’s bill is not enough and called for a measure that would expand the checks themselves to cover nearly all gun sales.
“If all Congress does in response to the Parkland shooting is to pass the Fix NICS bill, it would be an abject failure and a dereliction of our duty,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat.
Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, has said he’s looking to revive legislation he and Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, introduced in 2013 after the Sandy Hook school shooting that would expand background checks to cover more private gun sales, which are generally exempt from federal reporting requirements.
Another idea lawmakers are considering is a ban on “bump stocks,” the devices used by the Las Vegas shooter last year that modify semiautomatic weapons to function as fully automatic ones.
Some Republicans have also said they should consider increasing the minimum buying age for rifles from 18 years old to 21, though the National Rifle Association is opposed.
As for the Fix NICS bill, Mr. Ryan said recently the matter is now in the hands of the Senate, calling the concealed carry measure “a good self-defense bill.”
A senior House GOP aide said Monday the House has acted and leaders believe it’s the Senate’s turn to act.
The House-passed bill also included language directing the Bureau of Justice Statistics to issue a report to Congress on bump stocks within six months.
A House Republican source said leadership wants to have this bill include both background checks and concealed carry, which could doom either one if lawmakers try to reconcile the House and Senate versions.