This bill would expand the background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet, or in classified ads while providing reasonable exceptions for family and friend transfers. It would also aim to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by incentivizing states to improve their reporting of relevant criminal records to the system with grant funding, which would be reduced if states don’t comply.
Background Check Reforms
This section of the bill would seek to enhance the current background check to ensure criminals and the mentally ill are not able to buy guns. It would prohibit the transfer of guns at gun shows, over the internet, or through classified listings except in the following circumstances:
The purchaser has a valid permit issued within the last five years by a state (or its subdivision) allowing the individual to possess, acquire, or carry a firearm that was obtained after a government official indicated that the individual’s possession of a firearm wouldn’t violate federal, state, or local law.
The transfer is between two unlicensed individuals residing in the same state, and the Attorney General certifies that the state has requirements that are generally equivalent to this bill’s requirements and that the transfer was in compliance with state law.
The transfer is made between spouses, between parents or spouses and their children or spouses of their children, between grandparents or their spouses and grandchildren or their spouses, between aunts and uncles or their spouses and their nieces or nephews or their spouses, or between first cousins and the transferor doesn’t have reasonable cause to believe the transferee is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal, state, or local law.
This bill would prohibit the establishment of a national gun registry. It would prohibit the Attorney General from consolidating or centralizing records of the acquisition or disposition of firearms maintained by licensed individuals or unlicensed transferors who meet existing criteria, or the possession or ownership of a firearm maintained by medical or health insurance entities.
Any person who makes or attempts to make a transfer of a firearm in violation of this legislation to a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm would be fined or imprisoned for up to 5 years, or both. Any person who knowingly violates the prohibition on the establishment of a national gun registry would be fined or imprisoned for up to 15 years, or both.
This section of the bill would reauthorize the NICS program, and provide $100 million in funding for grants to improve it in each of fiscal years 2018 through 2021. States or Indian tribal governments applying for grants to improve their reporting to NICS would be required to establish a four-year implementation plan to ensure maximum coordination and automation. States would be ineligible for grants if they fail to establish a plan. Relevant entities would be granted authority to disclose limited health information protected by HIPAA to NICS.
Penalties for failing to meet benchmarks in those plans would lead to a 10% reduction in grants in the first year, 11% in the second, 13% in the third, and 15% in the fourth year. Identical penalties would be imposed for states which fail to implement a relief from disabilities plan that reports information restoring the eligibility of a previously prohibited person to federal authorities administering the NICS system.
NICS improvement grants could be used to:
Carry out assessments of the capabilities of state and tribal courts to automate the transmission of arrest and conviction records, court orders, and mental health adjudications or commitments to federal and state record repositories.
Implement policies, systems, and procedures to transmit the above records to federal and state record repositories.
Create electronic systems that provide accurate and up-to-date information which is directly related to checks under NICS, including court disposition and corrections records.
Assist states or tribal governments in establishing or enhancing their own capacities to perform background checks using NICS.
Develop and maintain the relief from disabilities program, which would be a required component of state implementation plans
NICS index statistics would be made publicly available within 180 days of this bill’s enactment, and would be reported biannually thereafter.