Issue: NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007
Legislation was approved to improve the automation and transmittal of criminal history disposition records related persons disqualified from possessing or receiving firearms, convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, and “adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution” to Federal and State record repositories.
State court leaders support exchange of criminal history information within the criminal justice system and request federal funding to assist state courts to comply with the new federal requirements. (CCJ/COSCA Resolution 07-A-14)
The NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (HR 2640) created new grant programs to assist state to improve the automation and transmittal of arrest and conviction records, court orders, and mental health adjudications or commitments to Federal and State record repositories. The bill provided both incentives and penalties for compliance with data transmittal requirements. HR 2640 also required states to establish a Relief from Disabilities program, whereby persons adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution would be permitted to apply to the State for relief from the disabilities for purposes of firearms eligibility. As part of the Relief for Disabilities program, determinations would be required on whether or not the relief should be granted and permit de novo judicial review when relief is denied.
Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced HR 2640, the NICS Improvement Act of 2007 on 6/11/07 to improve the reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The Senate approved HR 2640 with amendments on 12/19/07 and the House concurred the same date. The President signed the bill on 1/8/08 making it Public Law 110-180. The authorization for the state court grant program is for $62.5 million in FY 2009, FY 2012, and FY 2013 and $125 million in FY 2010 and FY 2011.
On 4/2/09, Mary McQueen testified on behalf of COSCA before the House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee. She asked Congress for full funding. Zygmont Pines delivered similar testimony before the House Appropriations CJS Subcommittee on behalf of COSCA on 4/14/10.
The history of the relevant funding has been as follows.
States are having difficulty complying with the requirements because of (1) the large number of records to process, (2) systems incompatibility, and (3) backlog of processing records.
On 11/15/11, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee held a hearing entitled The Fix Gun Checks Act: Better State and Federal Compliance, Smarter Enforcement. At the hearing, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and a group called “Mayors Against Guns” complained about the lack of compliance with the reporting requirements. They suggested increasing the penalty on states for noncompliance. The proposal to increase the penalties related to Byrne/JAG funds has not been translated to legislation thus far.
Efforts to address gun violence may include changes to the NICS related to the definition of which individuals should be reported and the information to be reported.
On 7/17/13, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee included $55 million for NICS reporting for FY2014.