Spending bill to strengthen background checks for gun purchases
Congressional leaders have agreed to strengthen background checks for gun purchases as part of a must-pass government funding package, according to a senior GOP source.
The bipartisan Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background System) Act, which would encourage states to report more frequently to the current criminal database, will be attached to the omnibus spending bill that is expected to be unveiled Wednesday afternoon.
The funding measure will also include money for a House-passed school safety measure designed to help train personnel to spot signs of potential gun violence and to beef up school security.
The massive spending bill is not expected to have any new gun control measures.
Congress is hoping to vote on the omnibus before current government funding runs out on Friday, a day before nationwide gun violence protests are scheduled to take place all around the country — including in Washington, D.C.
Lawmakers have been under intense public pressure to enact tougher gun laws since the deadly school shooting in Florida last month, a sense that was only further amplified by yet another school shooting in Maryland on Tuesday.
Fix NICS has been stalled in the Senate since December, because a House-passed version of the bill was paired with controversial legislation that allows people with concealed weapons to take them across state lines.
Gun rights supporters generally back the bill, but it will be disappointing to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and conservatives that Fix NICS is being separated from the concealed carry legislation, which is a top NRA priority.
House conservatives, who say House GOP leaders promised not to delink the two issues, expressed disappointment on Tuesday that their leadership was considering including the stand-alone Fix NICS bill, but said it probably wasn’t enough to call for a leadership change.
“It would just be another one in the long list of broken promises,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told The Hill. “We knew they were never going to stick to that.”
Democrats, meanwhile, support Fix NICS, but they say it doesn’t go far enough to address gun violence.
They made an eleventh-hour push Wednesday morning to get more gun provisions included in the spending package, such as clarifying that the so-called Dickey Amendment does not prevent the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from examining gun violence as a public health issue.
Republican leaders agreed to include report language clarifying that the amendment does not apply to gun violence research, according to a senior GOP source.
Updated: 1:34 p.m.