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.

  • 27 thoughts on “What Fixing NICS Really Entails – and What it Does Not Portend

    1. 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 weapons and other explosive devices. What happens when the atf storm troopers show up at a Vets house and he fights back. Other Vets could see what happens and would be more prepared and as each Vet is killed or wounded and he does the same to the storm troopers what then. I served in the Marine Corp and trained to never,never surrender my weapon. I am not alone. The VA probably had the letters waiting for Trump’s signature.

      1. 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.

    2. 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….

    3. 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 and prefer to have someone else bank their monthly checks to keep form going overdrawn being declared “mentally incompetent” is a load of bull puckey, and needs to be scrapped, Now, someone who truly IS mentally infit to own arms is another story.. but there is a HUGE difference between those two groups of people. In such cases, ALL OF THEM, there MUST be a hearing, accessible to the subject of the determination, with counsel aiding him if desired, to evaluate on a case by case basis whether he should be disqualified… and this process to be handled PRIOR to his being declared disabled in respect of arms ownership. Far too many have been glibly sold down the river, no recourse available (and I include hearings three states away, no legal counsel, mulitple courr sessions before its all over, as “no recourse available”. Get real…. until FedGov runs these steps on anindividual, they CANNOT take away his right to arms.

      Next, Congress need to impose some SERIOUS penalties for military and other fed dweebs who somehow never manage to get round to reporting events like the ones (yes, multiple) that debarred the use of arms to that hurch shooter in texas… the law mandating reporting is in place.. but all its got is gums… and gumming something to death don’t work. The individual responsible for forwarding that information, and who did not, MUST be dealt with. Id say lose his security clearance and get demoted a level or two. Twenty some people are DEAD because this clown was too busy or lazy or distracted to DO HIS JOB. Tchinically that could be construed as accessory to the murders he enbled by his failure or refusal. OK, so he followed the lax lazybones pattern set.. from this day forward, no more leniency. Muff up like that, anyone, its your job. The bonus is you get to live… those killed in that church building in texas don’t. Because of ONE GUY”S sloppy work habits.

      Last thing…. I paid the money and suffered tne infringements to get myMother May I Card to carry concealed. My state is relatively easy, but still… I have tp pay and wait and beg to exercise my RIGHT? THen, since I’ve jumped the hoops and all, WHY do I have to pay MORE money and wait and fill out pages of paperwork EVERYTIME I want to buy another gun? ANYONE having the Mother May I Card issued by his home state should be able to walk into any gun store, or fae off with any private party, show the card, plop the cash, and walk off with the firearm. No wait, no check, no fuss. Trust me, the local LE WILL come round at the slightest hint of a disabling activity. Friend got stupid and busted for DUI a while back. Jail for three days, license stripped, cubic bux to the court system. His first day back at work, sheriff droped by his house very early wanting his carry permit. He was already on the train inbound to work, so a different officer met the train, identified him by his picture, walked up and demanded the Mother May I Card. So don’t give me the business about
      maybe you would commit a disqualifying crime and stil be able to buy a gun……. maybe for two or three days. Get real. Not gonna happen.

      So, fix the “mentally unfit” insanity cause the guy’s not able to balance a checkbook
      SEVERELY punish anyone who fails to forward a disquaoifying incident report to NICS
      Make our Mother May I Cards to carry an instant substitute for background check any gun purchase.

    4. 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 a fugitive; and, WE need them to know when they have a felon-in-possession. How could they do that without NCIC (the cop’s equivalent of NICS) and the FBI databases? Anyone who thinks databases of public information will go-away is even more delusional than those who think we could eliminate NICS at FFLs.

      Third, are we people-of-the-gun able to identify and rank our most serious interests? Or, do we RANDOMLY attach ourselves vehemently to issues? E.g., we ought to be able to figure-out whether the NICS background-check at FFLs is more/less a threat vs. the 20-year retention requirement on 4473 forms. Is this simple 2-way comparison beyond our mental capacity? Lots of complaints about NICS; nary a single complaint about the 20-year retention period. Why is that? We would likely achieve a roll-back from 20 to 10 or 7 years on “paperwork-reduction” arguments as well as data on successful traces by age of “time-to-crime”. Why keep the 4473 forms for 19 years if there is never a successful trace on a 19-year-old sale?

      Fourth, gun-control by means of controlling gun-TRANSACTIONS is doomed. It is as doomed as the Volstead act was to the prohibition of alcohol and the Controlled Substances laws are to pot. Law-enforcement simply can’t keep up with tracking-down people in places for just a moment in time when they “transact” a transfer of contraband. If government wants to enforce a contraband law it must be willing to enforce the prohibition on POSSESSION. At present, law-enforcement has NO APPETITE to put more young minority males in prison for felon-in-possession. And so, they continue to concentrate on the transactions – gun-show-loophole, straw-buying, burglary – whereby guns leak from the legal market to the black market. This won’t work any better than it did for alcohol or does for pot. CNC machinery and 3D printing increasingly facilitate cottage industry. All the prohibition laws the Antis can imagine will do nothing to stop home-brew. The more money Congress invests in NICS at FFLs, NICS for private-party “UBC”, changes to the record-keeping requirements, etc. will prove for naught so rapidly as they are effective at targeting the sieve-holes they stop-up. Plugged sieve-holes will be replaced by clandestine factories and smuggling (even if gun owners all buy strong safes to prevent burglary). The bottom line is that law-enforcement will need the databases underlying NCIC to enforce felon-in-possession. The FBI needs more complete and more accurate databases to enforce felon-in-possession; today as well as tomorrow. Where do we People of the Gun stand on enforcing felon-in-possession? We should be arguing the point of this paragraph; i.e., we should advocate “FixNCIC and enforce felon-in-possession NOW” never mind that by so doing we are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Good-Ship NICS!

      Fifth, for the FBI’s databases to be useful they must be as CORRECT as possible as well as COMPLETE as possible. The Air Force’s omission of submitting the Texas Church shooter’s conviction is an in-complete “false-negative” error. We could eliminate false-negative errors by simply submitting all names of everyone i the country – from birth records – to the FBI’s database! This is an obviously absurd “solution” that is unConstitutional on its face. And yet, Congress pays no attention to John Lott’s findings that the vast majority of NICS “DENY” responses are false-positives! That is, a prospective gun buyer is denied his 2A right to buy a gun from an FFL because he is falsely identified as a prohibited-person. This problem is NOT confined to the FFL sales-floor. NCIC must also be feeding cops false-positive identifications of fugitives and ex-cons because of flaws in the matching scheme. In each context, we the People must INSIST that Congress mandate that adequate resources are invested in cleaning up false-positive errors in the FBI’s databases. A law-abiding citizen has a right to clear his good name in any case of error, whether inadvertent or malicious. Liberty can not suffer that innocent men be dragged-off in handcuffs to sit in a jail cell for days while a foolish error is being discovered. The government’s appetite to accumulate and act on data in a database of adjudications (warrants, convictions, commitments, etc.) must be tempered by the voters’ insistence on accuracy and completeness of the data; as well as the uses to which that data is put.

      1. 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 the next extreme far-left administration (like the one we just barely avoided in the last election) decides to REVOKE it’s illegal bogus permission it issued at the point of sale. The federal government has no authority to compel us to ask permission to exercise a right. It doesn’t even have the lawful authority to license firearm dealers. And State governments are PROHIB ITED the authority to compel us to ask permission to exercise our right to keep and bear arms – State governments have the Police Power to regulate the USE of arms in the interests of public safety; they have no authority to ‘regulate’ an inherited and unalienable fundamental right. READ the Declaration of Independence and READ the U.S. Constitution!

        Until American citizens start demanding the lawful rights our nation was founded to preserve and protect under the Rule of Law, we might as well rescind the War for Independence and ask the latest wannabe tyrant to protect us. C’mon, people! We a free men and women! Start acting like it! Start demanding our rights be recognized.

    5. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

    6. 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 any problem.

    7. 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 no probable cause exists of criminal conduct.

      He or she has to WAIVE his or her 5th Amendment right to DUE PROCESS by conviction in a Court of Law before a right may be lawfully taken.

      He or she has to WAIVE his or her long-standing doctrinal right, protected by the 9th Amendment, to be secure from being compelled to waive a right in order to exercise a right.

      He or she has to WAIVE his or her 10th Amendment-protected right to be secure from the federal enforcement of authority not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.

      He or she has to WAIVE his or her 10th Amendment-protected right to be secure from the STATE enforcement of authority specifically PROHIBITED to the States by the Constitution of the United States.

      The background check scam has never prevented a crime or criminal access to a firearm in the history of the planet and was never intended to. Its purpose is to SUCKER law-abiding citizens into waiving their fundamental rights over which government otherwise has no authority whatever out of some misguided and counter-productive sense of civic duty. Why? So the next far-left third-word satrapy administration to infest the DC swamp can REVOKE the permission issued at the point of sale and the leftist theory is the citizen will have no rights left to claim in his or her defense.

      That, too, is bogus: The federal and State governments have no lawful authority to SCAM citizens out of their fundamental inherited and unalienable rights, either. But the time to fight this scam is now, because it is going to be really difficult to fight it when the firefight starts.

      The federal government has no lawful authority to even license firearm dealers. The State government has the Police Power to regulate the USE of arms in the interests of public safety. It has no authority to regulate the RIGHT to KEEP and BEAR arms. “The judges in every State shall be bound [to the Constitution as amended] thereby, and Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” (Article VI Clause 2.)

      1. 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 only reason to make a law like this one, and death camps always follow. The person who wrote this should publish in the NY Times or work for CNN , because they are just as communist, and just as evil.

    8. “… 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 bureaucrat who abuses his position in those respects. THEN HR38 would provide a serious improvement over the existing situation.

    9. 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

    10. 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 health decisions on what qualifies or disqualifies one for any thing. I have had personal experiences wherein government officials who did not know what they were doing tried to disqualify me from employment or aspects of my employment. I had to go through a lot of trouble at my own expense getting qualified doctors to tell them they were wrong and my “disqualifying feature” was an alleged physical condition. I can only imagine how much more difficulty I would have experienced if the condition had been less tangible such as one’s mental fitness. I retired from a career as a federal law enforcement officer despite their best uneducated attempts to keep that from happening.

    11. 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.

      1. 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.

    12. “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.

    13. 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?

    14. 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?

    15. 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

      1. 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.

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