AG Jeff Sessions Orders FBI, ATF to Review NICS

Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Photo: Justice.gov)

This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the FBI and the ATF to conduct a comprehensive review of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

“The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is critical for us to be able to keep guns out of the hands of those that are prohibited from owning them,” said Sessions in a press release.

“The recent shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas revealed that relevant information may not be getting reported to the NICS – this is alarming and it is unacceptable,” he continued.

“Therefore, I am directing the FBI and ATF to do a comprehensive review of the NICS and report back to me the steps we can take to ensure that those who are prohibited from purchasing firearms are prevented from doing so,” concluded Sessions.

Sessions wants the agencies to do all of the following:

  • Work with the Department of Defense to identify and resolve any issues with the military’s reporting of convictions and other information relevant to determining prohibited person status under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).
  • Conduct a review to identify other federal government entities that are not fully and accurately reporting information to NICS. If any such entities are identified, a plan should be developed to ensure full and accurate reporting to NICS going forward to the extent required under current law.
  • Conduct a review of the format, structure, and wording of ATF Form 4473 and recommend changes as necessary.
  • Prepare a report that addresses: (a) the number of current open investigations for making a false statement on ATF Form 4473; (b) the number of investigations for making a false statement on ATF Form 4473 for the past five years; (c) the prosecution referral and declination numbers for the current year, as well as the past five years for making a false statement on ATF Form 4473; and (d) the priority level assigned to investigations for making a false statement on ATF Form 4473.
  • Identify any additional measures that should be taken to prevent firearms from being obtained by prohibited persons, including identifying obstacles to state, local, and tribal entities sharing information with NICS.

News of the audit comes in the wake of bipartisan legislation aimed at improving NICS. Sponsored by John Cornyn (R-TX) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), among others, the Fix NICS Act seeks to ensure all federal and state authorities are submitting mental and criminal records to NICS.

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There is one glaring question I have about Sessions’ internal review and the Fix NICS Act. Does it pave the way for universal background checks?

There are not many people that disagree with the idea of improving the NICS system, at least in theory. The NSSF, the firearms industry trade association, has said on multiple occasions that “A background check is only as good as the records in the database.”

The idea being that if NICS is missing records or if it has incomplete information than there are holes in the system. When there are holes in the system, prohibited persons will be able to purchase firearms from gun shops. Just like we saw in Sutherland Springs, TX.

So, let’s close the holes, right? That’s what Sessions and lawmakers are attempting to do right now. What’s going to happen, though, even after NICS is buttoned up?  Anti-gunners are going to point out that private citizens can still transfer firearms to one another without a background check. What they’ve dubbed, “the gun show loophole.” They’re going to say the system is still broken.

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What I fear is that by overhauling NICS we are endorsing the idea that the system is the solution.  That background checks stop mass killers.  The madman in Sutherland Springs did purchase a firearm via an FFL.  The Air Force did not submit his domestic abuse records to NICS.  But even if the records were submitted and the sale was declined, wouldn’t he still get his hands on a firearm?

With more than 300 million guns in this country, I think it’s more than likely. Okay, but let’s pretend that he wasn’t able to get a gun. Could he have resorted to other methods to kill those churchgoers? Absolutely. As we’ve seen in Europe, jihadists have no problem murdering a bunch of people with rental trucks.

My point is that in the wake of a tragedy, we get sidetracked with conversations about fixing the system. As if the solution to lone wolf attacks is to improve and expand the system. The problem is that you can’t expand the system without expanding government. In Europe, they’ve expanded the system to its logical conclusion.  To the point where gun rights are virtually non-existent.  Yet, those governments still can’t stop spree killers.

I think it’s worth asking, what happens when fixing NICS isn’t enough to stop the next crazed gunman? They’re going to say we need to close the gun show loophole. What happens when closing the gun show loophole isn’t enough? They’re going to argue we’ll need registration. What happens when registration isn’t enough? We’ll need… Well, you get the idea.

Maybe the gun industry can work with lawmakers and Sessions to Fix NICS without open up this can of worms. I think it’s highly doubtful but we’ll see.

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • JTaylor December 1, 2017, 9:51 pm

    Judges across the country are dropping the ball!
    The killer at WVA Tech was convicted and sentenced, the judge allowed him to self-report to incarceration and “DID NOT” enter him in NICS.
    Within a week he legally purchased a gun and attacked WVA Tech campus murdering multiple students.
    Judges who do not comply with NICS reporting should be held criminally liable.

  • Zach December 1, 2017, 1:36 pm

    I love the 300 million guns in America statement.It reminds me of the 11 million illegals in America.I’ve been hearing those numbers for over 10 years.Think about it.Monthly record gun sales during Obama terms,invasion on the southern border from drug dealers,ghost guns,it has to be closer to 1 trillion than 300 million,just as the illegals are closer to 50 million than 11 million

  • Alej December 1, 2017, 11:26 am

    Review the Air Force legal/reporting system. They’re the ones who screwed the pooch on the Sutherland Springs murderer.

  • bob December 1, 2017, 9:51 am

    Doing nothing will result in more needless deaths and increased anti gun sentiment. I am retired military, NRA, been to Camp Perry, legally own guns, hunter, been in combat, etc… I do not have a problem with filling out more government paper or waiting longer. I do have a problem with questionable people needlessly murdering others. If these measures help solve that then bring it on.

  • BIGKIELBASSA December 1, 2017, 7:39 am

    The problem is , they want to pass so many new anti gun laws that none of us will be able to pass a background check. They’ll claim we’re crazy for wanting to own a gun and use that excuse to deny us . I’m a diabetic. So does that mean I’m now a drug addict for shooting up every morning ? Where does a line get drawn ?

  • Jay December 1, 2017, 6:08 am

    Since when has anything government run and regulated, actually worked as intended, without just being a means to an end Agenda?!?!

  • mauser6863 November 28, 2017, 3:58 pm

    The entire NCIS is a completely feel good measure that does not prevent criminals, crazies and terrorists from obtaining arms and doing bad things.

    The number of purchasers denied, around 153,000 people and around 44 of that number (or less) are actually prosecuted each year. Comparing the number denied vs. the number of people actually prosecuted, reveals that thew whole system is a really a bad joke.

    Bottom Line – The Federal Government Spends millions of dollars and resource on a system, the NCIS, that is a 100% failure.

    The entire process needs to be eliminated, as well as state system like California’, etc.

  • SuperG November 25, 2017, 11:39 am

    DOD dropped the ball. The focus should be on them.

  • Robert Smith November 24, 2017, 10:26 pm

    Pushing more data onto NICS also increases the chances that names may be mistakenly reported. If you think this can’t happen just look at the infamous “No Fly” lists used by TSA. How about creating an appeals process for someone who wants to contest a NICS denial? Let’s say a Federal Court has to hear the case within 90 days. If you win, you get court costs and attorney’s fees. Fair?

  • TomH November 24, 2017, 8:17 pm

    The NRA has been addressing this issue for many years as they were the proponents for this system which is not working as proposed. The problem is that local law enforcement always fail to report violations in a timely manner into the system and often the information never makes it into it. Then, when the info is entered, it is not shared by higher departments in the upper chain of command as it is intended. We don’t need any more gun restricting lobbing when there is a lawful system that works but is ignored like any new laws would be.

  • Tom November 24, 2017, 2:35 pm

    You mean they have to actually do their jobs?

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