If you didn’t watch closely, you may have missed it. Fix NICS has been under review for several months. In that time, it has seen countless revisions, and it no longer resembles the bill we originally saw pass the House last year. It was packed into the omnibus spending bill, so most Americans don’t even know that the federal gun law has already undergone significant changes this year.
We’re used to Congress getting everything wrong, so in the interest of fairness, we’ll admit that the bill isn’t a complete failure. Still, the bad outweighs the good. Let’s break it down so you can see what Congress really thinks of your right to keep and bear arms.
By and large, the major changes in the Fix NICS bill are aimed at improving communication and efficiency in the background check system. The bill has several provisions that both require and incentivize various agencies to update their submissions to the FBI list on a more frequent basis.
All federal law enforcement agencies now have a mandate to provide updates at least twice a year. State and local authorities are under the same new requirements.
The bulk of the Fix NICS bill is dedicated to outlining funding procedures that give teeth to these requirements. The goal is to make it harder for infractions to slip through the cracks, and out of the entire bill, this is the only section that could actually prevent crimes like the Sutherland Springs shooting.
If we’re going to argue that any portion of this bill is more good than bad, it would have to be this mandate. Unfortunately, it’s paired with a huge deficit increase that we can all agree was signed recklessly.
Now, we’re moving into the gray areas. The first change in NICS criteria is that any felony conviction that had at least a one-year sentence will now bar people from gun ownership. You can see why people have mixed reactions to this. Some argue that any felony crime is sufficient to forfeit your basic rights. Others contend that only violent convictions are serious enough to sacrifice the 2nd Amendment. You can decide for yourself how you feel.
In that same vein, there is a change to what qualifies as mentally incompetent for firearm ownership. Under the new law, anyone with court-ordered psychiatric care can no longer purchase guns. It simplifies the law, but there is no question that innocent Americans will be caught in this new trap. It’s an overreach. Unfortunately, it’s dwarfed by other components of the bill.
The new definitions for mental fitness have a large negative. Simply put, it’s an attack on veterans. You may have heard that some courts have contended that any veteran who needs help managing their benefits is unfit to own a gun. Fix NICS standardizes this, so large numbers of veterans could lose their gun rights. The bill doesn’t mandate retroactive confiscation, but it does give courts power to punish veterans for the sole crime of serving their country.
There are also some important things missing from the final version of the bill. You might remember that back in December, Fix NICS had a lot of Republican support. At the time, one of the biggest changes in the bill included concealed carry reciprocity. It would have forced every state in the union to honor the concealed carry licenses of all other states.
Now, this didn’t standardize concealed carry permission. It just protected Americans who were crossing state lines from being ensnared in legal differences they didn’t happen to know.
Some early versions of Fix NICS included attempts for universal reciprocity. Unfortunately, Congress abandoned the will of the people and removed these provisions before the bill was passed. It will likely be a long time before any reciprocity submissions have serious traction again.
When you total the score, this is obvious a loss for the 2nd Amendment and America. Finding a way to improve the accuracy and efficiency of the NICS database is perfectly fine. Sneaking in all of these attacks on the rights of everyday citizens is not.
It’s too late to complain to your Senator or Representative about the details of this bill. The next step is to speak with a strong vote and elect politicians who will adopt our priorities. Without a huge win in November, we won’t see any significant support for the 2nd Amendment for a long time, and by then, it very well could be too late.
~ American Gun News