NRA-Backed Senator Introduces Background Check Bill

Senator John Cornyn of Texas.

The Senate's No. 2 Republican leader, Texas Senator John Cornyn, is introducing legislation that would reward states for sending more information about residents with serious mental problems to the federal background check system for firearms purchases, according to this story from Cornyn as an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association for his voting record regarding gun rights.

The bill would expand programs for treating mentally illl individuals and handling confrontations with them, according to this story from The bill is being called a more limited version of a Senate measure expanding background check requirements that was defeated two years ago. It's also more narrow than legislation introduced Monday by Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, which would provide extra federal money to states that send a broad range of data on the mental ill to the FBI, including information about violent criminals and domestic abusers.

"Gaps in existing law or inadequate resources prevent our communities from taking proactive steps to prevent them from becoming violent," Cornyn said in a written statement.

Currently, federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks, a system run by the FBI, on firearms purchasers. Those barred from buying guns include people legally determined to be "mentally defective" and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution. There is no requirement on the books for states to send those records to the FBI's background check system, causing the gaps in the database's information.

The new bill would increase grants under the government's main law enforcement program by up to 5 percent for states that send the federal system at least 90 percent of their records on people with serious mental problems. States providing less data could see their grants from a broad range of justice programs penalized by the same amounts, at the attorney general's discretion, the story says.

The bill would also give state and local governments more flexibility to use federal money to screen prisoners for mental problems and to improve training for police and others handling emergencies involving the mentally ill.

Jennifer Baker, spokesperson for the NRA's department of legislative affairs, said the bill took "meaningful steps toward fixing the system and making our communities safer."