What Fixing NICS Really Entails – and What it Does Not Portend

By Lawrence G. Keane

What Fixing NICS Really Entails – and What it Does Not Portend
What Fixing NICS Really Entails – and What it Does Not Portend

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- With U.S. House passage of H.R. 38 this week, as amended to include the Fix NICS Act, we are moving toward the one reform that will do the most to help keep firearms out of the hands of those who should not have them. And, despite what some have falsely claimed, it will do so while not interfering with the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was established 17 years ago with Congressional passage of the Brady Act. Today, it is generally not known that the instant criminal background check system itself was the recommendation of the firearms industry, long before there was a Brady Act. The operating principle then and now is to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens — and the lawful commerce in firearms — while denying access to firearms by those prohibited by current law from purchasing or possessing guns.

Fix NICS is Not Gun Control

Unlike restrictions on semi-automatic rifles or magazine capacity, Fix NICS is not a “gun control” measure, no matter how some opportunistic co-sponsors on that side of the gun debate may choose to characterize the bill. In truth, the legislation is based on the previous state-level work of the firearms industry to improve a system put into place nearly two decades ago. Ever since its inception, NICS has been hamstrung by the systemic failure to include all necessary disqualifying records in its database.

There are many reasons for this failure. And even so, for the most part, the system works. We know this system better than anyone because our retailers are on the front lines every day using it to help protect public safety. That’s why we launched the FixNICS initiative in 2013. The legislation before Congress is built on this experience.

We are nearing the end of the fourth year of our industry’s national effort, led by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, to ensure that the system has all the appropriate disqualifying criminal and adjudicated mental health records put into it. We have been successful through our direct efforts with 16 state legislatures to pass reforms to ensure that there are no statutory, regulatory, administrative or procedural impediments to entering all appropriate records into NICS.

NSSF’s work has resulted in a 170 percent increase in records submission, to 4.5 million in 2016 up from only 1.7 million in 2013. That is a record of accomplishment. The legislation now before the U.S. Senate will build on this success by providing incentives for states to submit records and help ensure that the military and federal agencies do their part, as already required under federal law.

Now, let’s discuss what the bill does not do. The definition of a prohibited person is not being expanded. Unelected government bureaucrats cannot unilaterally and arbitrarily put the names of law-abiding Americans into the NICS database to stop them from buying firearms, no matter how loudly some might claim. But it will stop prohibited people like the murderer of the innocent victims in Sutherland Springs from being able to purchase firearms from a federally licensed firearms retailer.

If not NICS, What?

For those on the pro-gun side who argue online or respond to posts with the message that the entire system should be scrapped for whatever reason, or that it will lead someday to a national gun registry, you need to hear this: Take a breath, think.

If there was not a NICS system, we would have had some other system imposed, just as we did in the five years before NICS was implemented. The Brady Act imposed a waiting period while NICS was under construction. Would you prefer that? Existing federal law prevents a national registry. That will not change with Fix NICS.

Opposing this legislation because a vocal anti-gun Senator has signed on as a co-sponsor is easy, but it accomplishes nothing meaningful. Most Americans want a system to ensure that gun buyers are law-abiding and not mentally ill. That’s why we have NICS. It is politically unrealistic to think that the abolishment of NICS is even remotely possible. It is absurd to think we can support our Second Amendment rights without it.

No one who sells firearms for their livelihood wants to put a gun into the hands of a criminal or a mentally unstable individual. While we know it’s not perfect, we want to work to improve the system – not expand the law – but improve the system. That’s what the Fix NICS Act will do.

We will oppose any senators’ amendments that may be offered that would be truly anti-gun. These senators need to know that they will fail if they put on a show of placing politics ahead of enacting needed reform and attempt to amend the legislation with a Christmas wish list of unworkable and unconstitutional measures. They will fail their constituents and they will fail America.

We have your back. Beware of those trying to politicize the issue – from either side.


The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 6,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

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Paul Stout

So the VA has put in some estimates 250,00 Vets on the nics list for having some one take care of their finances. Obama tried to do the same with people on Social Security. For years the liberal gun grabbers in congress like feinstein have tried to put all Vets on the list to not own firearms. You know we were in combat and we are all mentally ill or have PTSD. What happens when another million or so Vets are told you can’t own firearms and they refuse to be disarmed. We are talking people that know and understand… Read more »

joe martin

Trying to fix an inherently flawed system by throwing money at it is pure folly.

American Patriot

You are absolutely right, it’s already a federal & State(s) laws they are just not following the current law or doing their jobs. When it’s done by the Govt it’s even worse, I’m sure all branches of the military have plenty of people to input the scumbags with dishonorable discharges into the system. Throwing more money at problems don’t always work, just look at the U.S. school system.


If there is a prohibition of future encroachments by the Feds on the requirements to obtain a carry permit, I might support this bureaucratic solution to a cultural problem. But I can see it now, once this passes, the states with high levels on micromanagement of our rights will want more restrictions on the other states so the minimum level becomes the absurd levels they have (like NY, CA, etc.) and within a couple decades it will become a federal system with its own self-serving agency, expensive and difficult to obtain training requirements, inspections….


IF the Feds are serious about fixing the BGC system, first step would be to investigate EVERY incidence of a deny code. DID the applicant make any lfase statements, or was he merely truly ingorant that the bust he got for kicking his neighbour’s vicious dog rose to a felony level thus disquaifying incident? Ir did he serve jail time for a serious gun chargr five years ago and knows full well, as a specified part of his sentene that he’d never be able to own arms again? That business about vets and SS recipients who aren’t handy with numbers… Read more »


A well-reasoned article; and by an authoritative source. First, let me say that I think FFLs running NICS checks is a WASTE of resources. Nevertheless, anyone who thinks that eliminating NICS is a possibility is delusional. So, what should we do? Waste our efforts trying to eliminate NICS? Or, invest our efforts in something we might be able to accomplish? My policy is to frankly criticize NICS at FFLs while REFRAINING from any advocacy to eliminate it. Second, imagine there were no NICS. There would still be FBI national databases. Police and prosecutors need to know when they have detained/arrested… Read more »

Donald L. Cline

We didn’t have background checks up to 1993, so don’t think that getting rid of them is delusional. If it is delusional at all, it is because gun owners with an incredibly misguided sense of civic duty think it has to become fully socialistic-dictatorial before it will do any ‘good.’ Newsflash: Background checks have NEVER prevent a crime or criminal access to a firearm and were never intended to. It is a SCAM designed to sucker you into waiving every right you have protected by the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th Amendments so you won’t have any left when… Read more »

Donald Baker

The existing NICS system has affected me. Everytime I buy a gun I get a delay lasting about 3 days. That makes it impossible for me to buy a gun at a gunshow. I am NOT ineligible to own a firearm. Rather I am a victim of an ill advised law that affects only the law abiding. That is why this Texan will be voting against Sen John Cornyn for sponsoring an anti gun bill.

Larry Brickey

No waiting period in WA if you have a CPL.

Donald L. Cline

No waiting period in Arizona at all, and no NICS background scam if you have a concealed carry permit. But that ignores the reality that the concealed carry permit is asking government for permission to do that which you already have a right to do, when government has no lawful authority to issue or deny the permission, and compelling the citizen ask the question hasn’t prevented a crime or criminal access to a firearm in the history of the planet. Backgrounds checks are a SCAM designed to sucker you into giving up your rights.


Oh boy! No waiting period in WA, BUT wait…. they have gun registration and mandatory FFL. transfers for all private sales, gifts, loans, except for very narrow exceptions. Very bad trade off.


I must take you to task on one of your statements.You say ‘But it will stop prohibited people like the murderer of the innocent victims in Sutherland Springs from being able to purchase firearms from a federally licensed firearms retailer.’ That is not an accurate statement! Fact is that the laws already exist for this to take place and it did not happen. The issue is that no punishment was handed out for failing to follow the existing laws and regulations. I am not sure where you seem to think adding laws that are the same as existing laws fix… Read more »

Donald L. Cline

I always trip over the bogus claim that “It will NOT interfere with the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.” The HELL it won’t. It already does. Being compelled to ask government permission to exercise a right converts the right into a revocable government-issued privilege. That is a TAKING of the right. And it is worse than that: In order to get that bogus government permission government has NO AUTHORITY to issue or deny, the citizen has to WAIVE his or her 4th Amendment-protected right to be secure from SEARCH of his private ‘papers and effects’ on government databases when… Read more »

Ron H

Good points. Thanks.


Any one who would support any law that limits in ANY WAY the absolute, holy, and G_D ordained right of the people is an enemy. There are no valid “gun laws” only treason and those that support such communist evil. I see any person or group that would support this or anything like this the same way I view a suicide bomber screaming for Jihad. The NSSF and NRA are obviously enemy’s who’s agenda is to help the most depraved scum in history attack my family and my nation with disarmament and eventual death camps . Because disarmament is the… Read more »


“… bureaucrats cannot unilaterally and arbitrarily put the names of law-abiding Americans into the NICS database” is not quite correct. Bureaucrats cannot legally do so, but they damned-well CAN get it accomplished for practical purposes. “Existing federal law prevents a national registry.” No, it makes the creation of a registry technically illegal, but – again – bureaucrats damned-well CAN get it accomplished for practical purposes! That said, I do support the bill as a matter of (“small step in the right direction”) principal, but the bill desperately needs to mandate lots of severe and PUNITIVE action against any and every… Read more »


NSSF supports gun registration.


The Bill “fixes” nothing, simply throws money at an already bad system and combines National Reciprocity with it. If it passes the whole thing will be in court for years. Read the “Fix” Bill carefully and, while reading remember that words such as “may” have very real meaning in Bills.

I’ve said my peace on this many times before and I now officially give up. NRA and NSSF will be very happy

Ron H

I have concerns about what qualifies one to be one the “list” of prohibited persons other than felony criminal histories. If you see a mental health professional for counseling of any kind (marital counselling, alcohol or substance issue, depression, or anxiety) they used to submit your case to an insurance provider using a code to indicate anxiety or depression in order to have your office visits covered. Now you are deemed mentally unstable because you and your wife had some serious disagreement once that you eventually resolved. I have a big problem with any government agency making physical or mental… Read more »

Wild Bill

If a person uses a hammer, knife, baseball bat, or firearm to murder another person, then hang the murderer. The old ways were efficient, instructive, and financially sound. Then national registration would not be needed.


That would be too cruel for the pansy butts now days! I’ve been saying that for a long time. Bring back the town/County hangings and see how fast this crime problem stops with all these murders,thefts,etc.

Bill Smithem

“Existing federal law prevents a national registry.”, yet the last I’d heard, the FBI has still refused to show that they’re actually obeying the law and destroying the transaction records. A record of everyone that’s ever had a NICS check sure sounds a lot like the start of a national registry.
For some strange reason, spending almost 1 billion dollars to add more data to a system that incorrectly denies citizens their rights 95% of the time and is rarely used to prosecute those violating the law, doesn’t sound like such a great investment.

Old White Guy

Two thoughts:
1) If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, its a duck.
2) Grandma, my what big teeth you have.

Heed the Call-up

I see no need for it, either. They extremely rarely ever investigate and prosecute those that “fail” the check, so what’s the point?

Isn’t it already illegal for the “prohibited” people to obtain and possess firearms? NICS fails at stopping felons and others from obtaining firearms, why waste hundreds of millions of dollars for no valid reason?

Rick S.

I’m sure some veterans caught up in the 2007 NICS ‘update’ never expected their names to be listed due to PTSD either, or SSI benefits to many with the inability to maintain finances expected their guns to be taken as well. Sure … don’t kid yourself – it’s slow gun control. The 2007 bill text doesn’t list veterans, or PTSD or SSI … but regular law abiding citizen’s names still made it to the list.

Why do some, supposedly, pro-gun organizations continue to compromise with those unwilling to compromise?

Green Mtn. Boy

I smell something foul,just the steaming pile known as the NICS/Fix that the NSSF/NRA and civilian disarmament proponents are trying so hard to sell,cram down the throats of We The People. Next attempt


I’d definitely like to know what else was in the bill especially when nancy pelosi and chuck schumer were all for it! You never see anti gun politicians vote on anything unless gun control is connected to it.