U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto announced last week her support for bipartisan gun safety legislation, the Fix NICS Act, to strengthen the federal background check system in order to safeguard American communities from gun violence. Jointly introduced by U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the Fix NICS Act is aimed at preventing violent felons and domestic abusers from purchasing a gun.

“On October 1st, my hometown of Las Vegas became the site of the deadliest massacre due to gun violence in modern American history when a madman fired into a crowd of peaceful concertgoers,” said Cortez Masto. “I am proud to co-sponsor the Fix NICS Act because it would resolve inefficiencies in the national background check system so that violent criminals and domestic abusers will not be able to purchase a gun from registered dealers. I look forward to working with my colleagues to achieve universal background checks, so that individuals who purchase guns from unlicensed sellers will be required to undergo a background check as well.”

Federally licensed firearms dealers are required to run a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) every time they sell a gun. The NICS processes those requests by relying on information shared between federal agencies and state governments. Unfortunately, because federal agencies and state governments often fail to upload relevant information to NICS, violent criminals and felons slip through the cracks. Failure to share information led to tragic consequences in multiple mass-violence events, including the massacre at Virginia Tech (2007); the attack on the church in Charleston, South Carolina (2015); and the shooting at the church in Sutherland Springs. The murderers were able to pass an NICS Background Check because criminal and mental health records were not uploaded to the system.

The Fix NICS Act would strengthen the national background check system by:

•Requiring federal agencies and states to produce NICS implementation plans focused on uploading all information to the background check system and adopting measures to verify the accuracy of records.

•Holding federal agencies accountable if they fail to upload relevant records to the background check system.

•Rewarding states that comply with NICS implementation through grant preferences and incentives, while increasing accountability for those who do not comply with the implementation plan.

•Create a Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative to ensure that states have adequate resources and incentives to share all relevant information with NICS.

•Provide important technical assistance to federal agencies and states as they work to comply with NICS requirements.