In the wake of the tragic Parkland, Florida shooting that took the lives of 17 innocent individuals, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that the just-released White House budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 makes millions of dollars in cuts to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). NICS is used by law enforcement to check records on individuals who may be prohibited from purchasing firearms. Over 90 percent of the public supports a background check system on all gun buyers. Schumer, who is the author of the Brady Law that passed in 1993, has been a champion of common sense gun-safety legislation that better protects the American public and said he will do everything in his power to fight these cuts because it has been long proven that this check system saves lives.
“In the midst of the national tragedy in Parkland, Florida, and on the heels of now 30 mass shootings that have taken place this year alone, it is downright dangerous that the president’s budget would seek to undermine the gun background check system,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “No child should have to live in fear of mass shootings and no parent should have to worry about the fate of their child after school drop off in the morning. Rather than working to strengthen already lax gun safety laws, the White House is threatening to widen gaping holes in our protections by proposing to cut the NICS Background Check system by millions of dollars. While we are in dire need of an even stronger background check system in this country, like one that closes the Gun Show Loophole, the White House’s proposal would hurt one of the only firewalls we have in place to stop dangerous people from legally purchasing guns. President Trump: how can you seriously say that ‘no child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school’ when your team is proposing to dismantle the background check system? As the author of the 1993 Brady Bill, I give the American people my word that I will do everything in my power to fight these cuts and make sure the NICS Background Check System is fully funded so that it can continue to live up to its lifesaving purpose.”
Schumer authored the 1993 Brady Bill, which amended the Gun Control Act of 1968 to require background checks before a licensed gun dealer makes a sale and created the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NICS determines whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms and contains a buyer's criminal and mental health records. According to the FBI, more than 230 million checks have been made through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) NICS, leading to more than 1.3 million denials. A June 2017 Quinnipiac University poll found that 94 percent of Americans support requiring a background check on all gun buyers.
After the tragedy at Virginia Tech, Schumer worked with his colleagues in Congress to pass the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, which improved the system through which states provided the names of people who were adjudicated mentally ill or who had committed violent crimes. Simply put, states report these names to a federal database that licensed gun dealers must check with before selling a weapon. Schumer also championed the efforts to expand federal background check requirements to private sellers in the wake of the tragic massacre of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
The just-released White House budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 cuts the NICS program by 16 percent. Specifically, the proposed budget cuts the National Criminal Records History Improvement Program (NCHIP) and the NICS Act Record Improvement Program (NARIP), which are currently funded at $73 million. The proposed budget cuts their funding to $61 million. NCHIP works with states and local communities to provide any necessary resources to ensure that accurate records are available to protect public safety and national security. Specifically, NCHIP works with states to identify individuals who are ineligible to purchase firearms and who potentially present threats to public safety. NARIP was implemented to improve the NICS system by providing assistance to states by improving the completeness, automation, and transmittal to state and federal systems of the records utilized by NICS. Schumer said that any federal funding cut to these lifesaving programs would further allow for cracks and loopholes in the system.
So far this year, there have been 30 mass shootings. In 2017, the United States saw a total of 346 mass shootings. On February 14th, 2018, a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida opened fire at the school using an AR-15 rifle. Tragically, 17 individuals, including students and teachers, were killed and 15 others were injured. Similarly, in November 2017, an individual opened fire at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 individuals and injuring 20 others. The shooter was prohibited by law from purchasing firearms as a result of a court martial with the Air Force, however, according to reports, the Air Force failed to input the conviction into the FBI’s system. In 2018 alone, mass shootings have resulted in 55 deaths and over 103 serious injuries.
Schumer also warned that, last year, President Trump rolled back an Obama-era rule that would have added 75,000 names to the NICS database. The rule would have required the Social Security Administration to report the names of individuals who suffer from mental illness and are deemed unfit to handle their financial affairs. Schumer said the Obama-era rule was a small commonsense gun safety measure and should not have been undone and that the effort in the just-proposed budget to further undermine the check system is proof positive that this administration is not taking seriously the threat of weapons of war in the wrong hands.
Schumer explained that, in addition to preventing the White House’s proposed budget cuts on NICS from becoming a reality, more must be done in Congress to prevent people, like violent criminals, domestic abusers and the mentally ill, from too easily obtaining guns and using them to kill, sometimes in the form of a massacre. Schumer has been a longtime leading advocate of closing the loopholes under current federal law that allow private citizens to sell weapons at gun shows, on the internet, or anywhere else they choose without performing background checks on the purchasers, allowing criminals to purchase guns with ease. This is particularly dangerous in the southern states with lax gun laws. Guns sold in this region are often linked to illegal guns that are used in crimes across New York and other states. The ease with which illegal guns find their way to New York and others states, where they are used in violent crimes—or hateful attacks—occurs via the co-called “iron pipeline.” Schumer has long fought to constrict this illegal flow of guns and said that the lack of background checks contributes significantly to the ongoing problem.