Hold Up, Holder

Republican congressman Wolf urges Holder to improve background check system

Frank Wolf / AP


Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) sent a letter to United States Attorney General Eric Holder Tuesday urging him to redirect millions of dollars to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a move Wolf says could immediately reduce gun violence without curtailing Second Amendment rights.

Wolf, the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, recommended Holder reprogram $12 million to strengthen NICS.

"If they really want to do something to improve NICS, they can do it today," Wolf told the Free Beacon. "Holder can do it by 5 p.m. today."

The $12 million recommended by Wolf is the same amount passed in the House Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill for fiscal year 2013 and more than double the amount recommended in the president’s budget. It is also double the appropriation currently provided to the program by Congress.

"Both the National Instant Criminal Background Check System Act Record Improvement Program and the National Criminal History Improvement Program can provide states with grant funding to update and automate criminal history and mental illness records," Wolf wrote in his letter to Holder. "I believe that improving the data in the NICS index will improve the effectiveness of the national background check system and thereby reduce gun violence."

Wolf also recommended establishing a national center for campus public safety.

"Such a program could provide training, research, and best practices to educational institutions at all levels to increase safety and prevent violence," Wolf wrote in the letter. "This proposal has passed the House and has strong bipartisan support in both chambers. It’s also supported by the Virginia Tech Family Outreach Foundation."

Ken Fulmer, the executive director of the Virginia Tech Family Outreach Foundation, said his organization has supported Wolf’s bill and similar efforts for the past three years.

"Right now, there's no central place for colleges and universities to go for improving their standards," Fulmer said. "The idea is to create a national clearinghouse for virtually everything on campus safety. Increased diligence on the basics could make all the difference in the world."

President Barack Obama has pledged to pursue aggressively new gun-control measures in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The president recently signed a slate of executive actions aimed at strengthening gun laws and is using the bully pulpit to press Congress to enact sweeping new gun legislation, including new bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

However, Second Amendment groups argue such measures would do little or nothing to curb mass shootings.

Wolf said such a unilateral move by the Justice Department would not be without precedent.

The Justice Department bought Thomson prison from the state of Illinois for $165 million in October 2012, bypassing the appropriations process.

The purchase angered Republican members of Congress because the prison was being considered as a facility to hold Guantanamo Bay detainees.

"The unilateral decision to purchase the Thomson Prison—even though Congress has repeatedly opposed the Obama administration’s effort to use taxpayer funds to do so—underscores the administration’s desire to move forward and bring these detainees to U.S. soil," House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said at the time.

However, Wolf said that in this case a unilateral move by Holder would not be contentious.

"If he can do that, we're giving him the authority to do this now. Both of these things have been put in bills that passed the House," he said. "They're noncontroversial issues."

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CJ Ciaramella   Email CJ | Full Bio | RSS
CJ Ciaramella is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon, he was a reporter for the Daily Caller. He was also a Collegiate Network year-long fellow at the San Diego Union-Tribune and has written articles for the Weekly Standard and Oregon Quarterly. Ciaramella attended the University of Oregon, where he edited the award-winning student magazine, the Oregon Commentator. He lives in Washington, D.C. His Twitter handle is @cjciaramella. His email address is ciaramella@freebeacon.com.

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