The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms industry, has been lobbying for years now for states to add some mental-health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). NICS, of course, is the database that a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer (FFL)—which includes all gun stores and more—has to call into in order to clear a person’s name before they can purchase a firearm. This database is administered by the FBI, but it is the states that give the FBI most of the records that go into the NICS database. The NSSF noticed that some states weren’t putting any records in of people who have been declared insane by a court of law. The NSSF has since lobbied to change this.
Over 160 million NICS background checks were conducted from November 30, 1998 to December 30, 2012—more than 19.5 million in 2012 alone. “However, a background check is only as good as the records in the database,” according to the NSSF. “That is why the firearms industry supports improving the current NICS system by increasing the number of prohibiting records states submit to the FBI databases.”
Though the NSSF gets very little news media attention for lobbying state by state for this important fix to the background check system, the NSSF has made a big difference. Its latest change just occurred in Vermont, where Gov. Peter Shumlin signed S.141, a law that extends to the state a federal ban barring those convicted of violent felonies or found mentally unstable by a court from possessing a firearm. The law incorporates NSSF’s FixNICS language that over the last two years has been successfully championed from Alaska to Georgia.