Government Regulations

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On November 14, 2019, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted to Congress the first Attorney General’s Semiannual Report on the Fix NICS Act as required by the Fix NICS Act passed in March 2018 that found the government had made some improvements to the sharing of records and information vital to the effective operation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

The NICS is a computerized system that helps determine if a person is disqualified from possessing or receiving firearms by conducting a search of available relevant records. To function effectively, the NICS must have access to complete, accurate, and timely information submitted by relevant agencies in all levels of government across the country. The report found, among other things, that between April 2018 and August 2019:

  • There was an increase of over six million records in the three national databases searched with every NICS check – a 6.2 percent increase.
  • The number of Firearm Retrieval Referrals (FRRs) – where a prohibited person is able to purchase a firearm because the background check could not be concluded within three business days due to incomplete records – decreased each month in comparison to the same month during the previous year, for an average monthly decline of 102 FRRs.
  • With the exception of one month, there was an increase in the percentage of NICS checks resulting in an immediate determination – not requiring a delay for further research – compared to the previous year. 

“Fix NICS implementation is still in its infancy, yet already we’re seeing great strides being made across government – state, tribal, and federal law enforcement – to strengthen the NICS. Given the preliminary data, it is clear that the Fix NICS Act is well on its way to doing exactly what it was intended to do – make the NICS better,” Attorney General William P. Barr stated in a DOJ press release about the report.

Although the implementation plans have been in place for just a few months, these early indicators are encouraging. As the plans are executed over the next several years, the DOJ expects to see a real and lasting positive impact on NICS records and operations. The complete Attorney General’s report can be accessed at https://www.justice.gov/ag/fix-nics-report-2019.

In March of 2018, ESR News reported that United States President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill into law that included the “Fix NICS Act,” legislation introduced by U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) that would strengthen the NICS used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to ensure convicted felons and domestic abusers cannot illegally purchase a firearm.

As reported by ESR News in November of 2017, the introduction of the bill followed a shooting in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas that left 27 people dead including the gunman who used a rifle bought after passing a NICS background check despite being court-martialed by the Air Force for assault on his spouse and child, which should have disqualified him but was not entered in the database.

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