In the wake of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in which 17 people were shot and killed and more than a dozen were wounded, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement yesterday that the President was open to supporting a version of the Fix NICS Act, a bill that would make some targeted improvements to reporting of records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
“If all Congress does is pass the Fix NICS Act, then lawmakers will have failed to meet this moment and do their job. Across America, students, educators, mothers and fathers are demanding that Congress finally get serious and meet this moment with robust action to reduce gun violence. This bill is a small step forward. Congress needs to do much more, starting with legislation to require criminal background checks on every gun sale — supported by 95 percent of Americans.”
It is critical to keep improving the background check system, which has stopped millions of dangerous gun sales. But Fix NICS does not address the massive gap in the law that enables prohibited people to skip a background check altogether and buy guns from an unlicensed seller, no questions asked.
Further, this administration’s track record is one of weakening — not strengthening — gun laws. After accepting at least $30 million in support from the NRA to get elected in 2016, President Trump has carried the gun lobby’s water and weakened gun laws over the past year. Since February, the Trump administration has:
- Signed a law repealing the Social Security Administration rule on record submission to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for disability recipients prohibited from possessing guns due to significant mental illness;
- As a result, by Everytown’s estimates more than 400,000 prohibiting records will not make their way into the system, and people with severe mental illness — who are prohibited from having guns — will be able to pass a background check and get armed.
- Narrowed the definition of who is a fugitive under federal law, a little-noticed policy change that allows more people on the run from the law to pass a background check and get their hands on guns.
- In the first six months after the policy came into place, the number of denials to fugitives plummeted by 80 percent
The gun lobby spent more than $55 million to elect Donald Trump and NRA allies in Congress in 2016. In exchange, NRA-backed members of Congress have introduced legislation to enact the NRA’s top legislative priorities: a bill to gut silencer safety laws and “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December and would override states’ gun laws and make our communities less safe. The House also passed a bill in March 2017 that would remove a gun prohibition for Veterans’ Affairs beneficiaries who are severely mentally ill–removing nearly 170,000 records from the background checks system.
While most members of Congress have reacted to the shooting by offering thoughts and prayers, and not much else, we hope that the president takes the opportunity to reconsider his support for the gun lobby’s dangerous policy agenda.