Future of Fix NICS Unclear in Wake of Trump Gun-Control Meeting

'The president just killed stand-alone Fix NICS'

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March 1, 2018

The future of a bipartisan bill intended to fix issues with the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is in question after President Donald Trump's televised meeting with top lawmakers yesterday.

Republican officials scrambled to assess the impact of the meeting where Trump seemingly endorsed adding proposals like expanding background checks to used gun sales between private parties, banning anyone under 21 from owning firearms—certain semiautomatic rifles in particular—further domestic-violence-related restrictions on gun ownership, and seizing guns from certain people before going through due process. Trump also rejected the idea of adding national gun-carry reciprocity to the deal because he believed it wouldn't be able to pass. Some Republican staffers said the president's desire to add a number of top Democratic gun-control priorities to a bill that had enjoyed broad bipartisan support without including any Republican priorities may have ended any possibility that the bill, known as Fix NICS, could pass even if it were presented as a stand-alone bill.

"The president is like a blindfolded Yosemite Sam, shooting from the hip," a senior Senate GOP aide told the Washington Free Beacon. "It's clear he doesn't know the details and it's unclear what he wants."

"The president just killed stand-alone Fix NICS."

The office of Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), a leading gun-rights proponent and the number two most powerful Republican in the Senate, said they believe Democrats are hoping a stand-alone bill is impossible now, but they're still working toward that goal.

"That's what Democrat leadership is hoping," an aide to Sen. Cornyn told the Free Beacon. "We added four new cosponsors—two Republicans and two Democrats—after the meeting, bringing the total to 50."

Cornyn himself said he would prefer to start with a stand-alone Fix NICS bill and only add amendments to it after they've received 60 votes. "I think the best way to start, I believe, is to start with Fix NICS, and then we can see what sort of amendments people offer that get 60 votes, but at least coming out of that we’d at least have a background check bill that would save lives," he told reporters yesterday.

Fix NICS was proposed as a direct response to the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which left 26 dead and 20 more injured. The shooter was able to obtain his firearm despite being legally prohibited from owning firearms due to a domestic violence conviction in a military court because his criminal records were never submitted to the FBI by the Air Force. The bill would allocate hundreds of millions of dollars to incentivize states and federal agencies to submit more of the records NICS uses to determine if somebody is barred from gun ownership. It also includes punishments, like withholding bonus pay from political appointees at federal agencies that don't comply.

The bill has enjoyed support from Republicans, Democrats, gun-rights groups, and gun-control groups up to this point. The National Rifle Association helped shepherd the bill, in combination with a national gun-carry reciprocity proposal, through the House of Representatives. The group continues to support Fix NICS but told the Free Beacon last night they were opposed to the new gun-control proposals the president suggested be attached to it.