DOJ poised to issue background check regs

The Justice Department is preparing to announce regulations designed to expand and strengthen the national background check system for gun sales.

White House records reveal the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has completed its review of the DOJ rule, one of 23 executive actions ordered by President Obama more than a year ago in response to the 2012 shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn.

The exact timing of the planned action was not clear Friday afternoon.

The final rule sets out three changes to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), created 20 years ago in an effort to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

The updated regulations will grant tribal police access to NICS and authorize law enforcement agencies to use the system to run full background checks before returning guns that have been seized or confiscated during the course of investigations.

The third amendment involves consolidated, electronic storage of information on gun purchases that have been denied via the NICS system, according to a rulemaking notice issued in January.

“These proposed changes are intended to promote public safety, to enhance the efficiency of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) operations, and to resolve the difficulties created by unforeseen processing conflicts within the system,” the agency wrote.

NICS was created by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which took effect 20 years ago Friday. The statute requires background checks for all gun purchases from licensed gun dealers, who are required to use the system to screen for felons, drug abusers, the severely mentally ill or others who are prohibited from owning firearms.

Gun control activists and some in Congress have complained that the system is too limited. A separate, legislative push under way in Congress, would expand background check requirements to private sellers, like those operating at gun shows and online.