After the Texas church massacre this month, a bipartisan gun control bill was introduced by a Texas senator — who’s a Republican. Even the NRA has endorsed it. Could this one gun control bill pass?
The mass shooter who killed killed 26 people at a Texas church on November 5 should have been legally prevented from obtaining the rifle he used, due to a 2012 domestic assault conviction for cracking his toddler stepson’s skull.
But the Air Force, where the perpetrator had previously served, failed to enter the conviction into the federal database which is supposed to prevent those convicted of domestic violence from obtaining weapons.
The reason for the conviction’s non-entry is currently the subject of an internal Air Force review, although human error appears the most likely explanation.
What the bill does
The FIX NICS Act aims to fix current gaps in the current federal background check database. The bill’s title refers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), was launched in 1998.
The bill would:
- Establish a new “Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative” in order to better prevent those convicted of those crimes from obtaining weapons.
- Publicly report any federal agencies that fail to upload relevant information to the system, and withhold certain pay from political appointees who neglect to upload the info.
- Establish new measures to verify the accuracy of existing records already uploaded into the system.
More than 1.3 million weapons purchases have already been denied due to the background check program, but bill supporters note that even a single person who should have been denied but wasn’t is one too many.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the legislation fixes a much-needed loophole in the law, which might have even prevented this month’s Texas massacre had it previously been closed.
“For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” lead sponsor Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said in a press release. “Just one record that’s not properly reported can lead to tragedy, as the country saw last week in Sutherland Springs, Texas.”
“This bill aims to help fix what’s become a nationwide, systemic problem,” Cornyn continued, “so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.”
What the NRA says
Even the National Rifle Association (NRA), the manufacturing trade association that represents gun makers and which has helped prevent essentially every federal gun control push this decade, has lent its support to the measure.
“The NRA has long supported the inclusion of all legitimate records in the [NICS],” NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris Cox said in a statement.
While federal law prohibited the Texas shooter from possessing a firearm, he was able to pass a background check because the Air Force failed to transfer his conviction record to the FBI,” Cox continued. “We applaud [Cornyn’s] efforts to ensure that the records of prohibited individuals are entered into NICS, while providing a relief valve for those who are wrongly included in the system.”
Odds of passage
The bill has attracted a bipartisan mix of seven cosponsors: four Democrats and three Republicans. Without the NRA opposing it, the biggest roadblock has seemingly been removed, rendering this bill’s odds of passage unusually high for what is ostensibly a gun control bill.
Labelled S. 2135 in the Senate, the bill was introduced on November 15 and awaits a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Texas’s other senator Ted Cruz has not signed on. Cruz has been one of the Senate’s most adamant defenders of Second Amendment rights — not that Cornyn has generally been considered weak on that issue.
PolitiFact rated Cruz’s claim that a previous amendment he introduced in 2013 would have prevented the massacre as mostly false. The amendment failed by a narrow 48–52 margin.