Legislation by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to strengthen the criminal gun background check system has been tacked onto a massive spending bill lawmakers are rushing to pass by Friday night to avoid another federal government shutdown.
The legislation, known as the "Fix NICS Act", was co-authored by Cornyn and Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut after the Sutherland Springs shooting in November that killed more than two dozen people. After the bill stalled in the upper chamber despite dozens of senators backing the legislation, Cornyn's office announced earlier this month — in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida — that he had enough support to push it forward without the possibility of a filibuster.
The bill would hold government agencies accountable for failing to properly document individuals' criminal histories in the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System. As of Tuesday, Cornyn's office said, the legislation had 77 co-sponsors in the Senate.
“The calls from the American people to address gun violence in our schools and communities have been deafening, and I’m grateful we’ll soon get that chance,” said Cornyn in a released statement late Tuesday. “Fixing the background check system will help save lives and reduce the likelihood of what occurred in Parkland and Sutherland Springs from happening again.”
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The NICS database, which is handled by the FBI, landed on the public's radar last fall after a former U.S. Air Force airman opened fire at a rural Texas church, killing 26. The Air Force said after the shooting that it failed to report the gunman's history of domestic assault to the database — information that should have prevented him from buying a gun.
Cornyn's legislation would require federal agencies and states to come up with plans to ensure information is properly reported to the database. The bill, which would set aside resources to help those agencies do so, would also create a system of incentives and penalties for agencies who comply or fail to do so.
The House on Thursday passed the $1.3 trillion funding measure, which also includes increased military spending pushed by Texas’ Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, among other things. The legislation is expected to see passage in the Senate on Friday or over the weekend.