CAP, which has close ties to the Obama administration, said the president should act unilaterally to bolster the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS.) Gun dealers are required to use the system to screen for felons, drug abusers, the severely mentally ill or others who are prohibited from owning firearms.
But the database is woefully incomplete, and the federal government is partly to blame, CAP argues in its report. The group cites the case of Jared Lee Loughner, who in 2008 was excluded by the Defense Department from serving in the U.S. Army because of his struggle with drug abuse. But the agency did not submit a record to the database. Two years later, Loughner bought a Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun used in the Tucson, Ariz., shooting spree that killed six people and wounded 13, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Obama “can just start by ensuring that the federal government, people within the federal government, turn over their records, also, through the background check system,” CAP President Neera Tanden said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
Additionally, the group urged the Obama administration to issue an order directing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to withhold certain Justice Department grants from states that fail to create or implement plans to transfer records to the FBI. Most states currently do not share records for the database.
Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt countered that the criminal background database is not the answer and such background checks give Americans “false security.”
“Some of the most horrendous of the mass murders that have occurred recently, including the one in Newtown, would not have been stopped by a background check,” Pratt said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The gun is stolen. The person has no prior criminal record.”
CAP is also calling for federal audits of licensed gun dealers to ensure they do not employ people who themselves are banned from owning firearms.
“Drug addicts shouldn’t work behind the counter at a pharmacy — and felons shouldn’t sell guns in gun stores,” the group charges in its report.
CAP believes Obama should also expand reporting requirements for gun dealers. Federal law already requires dealers to alert the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) when someone buys multiple handguns within a five-day period. Certain rifles and shotguns should be added to those reporting requirements, CAP contends.
The group is recommending that Obama also direct the FBI to absorb ATF, and reclassify it as a unit within the bureau, saying funding problems and a “leadership vacuum” have made it impossible for ATF to function properly as a standalone agency.
ATF, CAP said, “has become a beleaguered agency that is unable to adequately fulfill its mission to oversee and enforce federal firearms laws."