The Nics gun check system primarily functions to keep firearms away from individuals deemed dangerous. However it’s parameters are well defined and can not legislate for ifs, buts and early warning signs. Along with the South Florida shooter’s distorted online presence, racist ramblings and perverse bravado he still passed a Nics gun check to secure his semi automatic rifle within the past 12 months.  Further that no action was taken following a tip off on January 5th to the FBI’s Public Access Line (tipline). Revelations also came to light that the killer was  the subject of investigations (2016) by mental health professionals and social services. This followed somewhat disturbing videos on Snapchat.

The killer’s adoptive mother advised case workers he did not own a gun. Thereafter in February of 2017 a rifle was purchased from a local gun dealer in a store no more than 3 miles from the school. However no sale would have concluded should he have attempted to purchase a handgun. Federal laws stipulate those aged 21 and over can purchase a handgun while those over 18 years of age can buy a semi automatic firearm. The Nics gun check process is not a catch all net or an all encompassing umbrella. Some may argue that the scope is too narrow and indiscriminate and does not account for every nuance and facet of an individual’s make up and neither registers expulsion from school over threats and/or disciplinary issues.

A Nics gun check is carried out by a licensed gun dealer. Those gun dealers, in turn, are authorised and licensed by the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). Gun dealers are defined as those that buy and sell firearms with a ‘principal motive’ of making profit. The ATFD state that those making occasional sales from a ‘personal collection’ do not require a license. A dealer is seen as someone who accepts credit cards, advertises and has a business card. Inventory being replenished is also further confirmation. Irrespective of where dealers sell they must be licensed i.e. online, stores and/or gun shows. Alarmingly certain states have unlicensed dealers able to sell without conducting a Nics gun check.

When a dealer (licensed) conducts a Nics gun check a further 2 databases are accessed. The Nics database will return a response within minutes and access records that automatically bar an individual from Firearms ownership. The additional two databases are the Interstate Identification Index (III) and the NCIC (National Crime Information Center). These additional databases may well be considered as referencing minor infractions such as probation reports or traffic stops. For private sellers, under federal law, it is not mandatory to background check a potential buyer. However certain states have added this requirement.

The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (Nics) was launched in 1998.  To the uninitiated or those who have never had any interest in gun ownership a Nics gun check works as such. A buyer will present their ID and completes a form (ATF 4473) with information such as race, address and age along with any criminal history if applicable. The information is then submitted via the internet or a toll free number to the FBI. The submission of an individual’s social security number is optional although recommended.

Additional questions within the ATF 4473 are whether the applicant has been convicted of a felony, domestic violence or a midemeanor crime. Whether the applicant has used marijuana illegally and/or is addicted. This also applies to stimulants, controlled substances, depressants or narcotics. Is the applicant on the run (fugitive from justice) and has he/she ever been secured in a mental institution. Many firearms change hands illegally and legally without a Nics gun check mindful that the database is only accessed by federal licensed gun sellers. Statistics and data on nationwide sales is unreliable as sales (nationwide) are not tracked by the government.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 initiated the mandate for gun background checks. Named after Reagan’s press secretary, Jim Brady, left paralyzed in 1981 by the attempted assassination of President Reagan. Jim Brady passed away in 2014. The campaign though became a powerful lobbyist for tighter gun control at state level and bringing pressure on congress to do more to close federal check exceptions. Gun shows, as an example, licensed dealers alone must carry out checks. In certain instances purchasers are able to obtain firearms only for it to be found later that the individual was disqualified. This is what is known as a default proceed sale. A weapon was obtained in such a scenario by the killer of 9 worshippers in Charleston in 2015.

The bill (Fix NICS), is sponsored by Senator Cornyn and Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut (dem). The bill seeks to improve reporting standards and encourages states to follow pro actively. Detailed plans of action would be required from federal agencies as to how they would implement the uploading of all records to the NICS database. The plans would be reported to The attorney general’s office with detailed goals and Compliance time lines. The attorney general’s office, in turn, would report records detailed by category, that each correspondent federal agency reports. Political appointees at relevant agencies that failed to comply would not receive annual bonuses.

Federal agencies along with states would be ‘named and shamed’ publicly if they fail to meet the goals set by themselves. In turn technical support would be made available to these agencies in order to build more robust and efficient reporting systems. The legislation also seeks to make $125 million funding each year from 2018 through 2022 to improve, maintain and enhance criminal records verification along with reporting to the FBI. Those states seizing the initiative with detailed plans for best practices and implementation will receive priority. Experts agree across the board that Fix NICS will add significant weight to reporting and accountability to a hazy and complex gun background check system. To read more about the Fix NICS campaign along with current facts and information please follow this link – Fix NICS facts & Information

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