The National Rifle Association on Wednesday criticized misinformation being spread about a gun background check system improvement act it supports.
"We are in the thick of the legislative process and a so-called 'pro-gun group,' which is nothing more than a fundraising entity, is spreading lies about the FIX NICS legislation that was attached to the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act," Lars Dalseide, a spokesperson for the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, told the Washington Free Beacon. "Their talking points are nothing but lies. Unfortunately, they are misleading well-meaning members of Congress with these false and inaccurate talking points."
The Fix NICS Act was combined with the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 on Tuesday ahead of an expected vote on the House floor Wednesday. The Fix NICS provisions now contained in the combined bill establish incentives for states and federal agencies to better comply with current law on reporting disqualifying criminal and mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). They also include punishments, such as stripping bonuses from political appointees, for states and agencies that don't fully comply.
Some pro-gun groups have opposed the bill claiming it expands the background check system. The text of the bill shows, however, that it does not expand the classifications of who is considered prohibited from owning or possessing firearms, nor does it expand the kinds of criminal or mental health records required to be submitted to the system. The bill also doesn't expand which agencies are required to report records to NICS.
Despite what appears in the bill's text, Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, described it as establishing "a gun control super-database" and "expanding the Brady-NICS gun owner registry."
"Weak Republicans always push gun control laws under the guise of ‘enforcing the laws we have,' but only end up pushing the Democrat agenda, giving gun owners more reasons to worry," he said.
Meanwhile an alert from Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America (GOA), claimed Fix NICS "would require that the rolls of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and ObamaCare be trolled for recipients with PTSD, ADHD, or Alzheimer's—that is, people who have had guardians appointed," the group's legislative council said it was not arguing the bill would create new categories of prohibited people. Instead, he said, the bill's attempt to gather all of the records required under current law, which dates back nearly a decade, is the problem.
"No, we are not arguing that ‘Fix NICS’ adds new categories," Michael Hammond, general counsel for GOA, told the Free Beacon. "But we are arguing that 18 U.S.C. 922(g), as interpreted by the 2007 NICS Improvement Amendments Act and its regulations at 27 CFR 478.11, is so potentially broad, that, if every eligible name were submitted to NICS, as the bill proposes, the result would be the submission of a large number of names of otherwise law-abiding Americans."
Despite any concerns it has with the Fix NICS Act, GOA encouraged members of Congress to vote for the combined bill in hopes that the package had a better chance of passing the Senate.
"Sending both bills combined to the Senate will force Democrat lawmakers to explain why they don’t support self-defense, should they choose to kill the composite bill," Pratt said in a December 4th email to lawmakers. "On the other hand, in the event one or two additional Senate Democrats were to vote for reciprocity as a result of the combining, we believe the Second Amendment community would benefit from the passage of that package far more than the anti-gun Left. Ultimately, we hope that the end result will be the signing into law of a reciprocity bill that has the support of a majority of House members and millions of law-abiding Americans."
Representative Thomas Massie (R., Ky.) shared a message with supporters on Facebook claiming, among other things, the bill "compels administrative agencies, not just courts, to adjudicate your second amendment rights" despite the text creating no new adjudication powers for any administrative agencies.
The NRA said the bill does not expand the gun background check system in any way and also includes new legal protections for those who have been wrongly reported as prohibited from owning guns.
"The FIX-NICS bill does not expand prohibited categories in any way," Dalseide told the Free Beacon. "It does not expand the people who are legally prohibited to possess or carry a firearm and it does not authorize any entity to enter records into the system that are not already legally prohibiting offenses.
"FIX-NICS actually provides some remedy for people who may have been erroneously entered into the NICS database. This Fix-NICS provision expedites NICS appeals for those individuals, requiring a response within 60 days. Under the current system, the appeals process has taken more than a year in some cases."
The NRA said it believes misleading statements from those opposed to the bill are endangering its passage and the passage of the national gun-carry reciprocity bill it's attached to.
"National Concealed Carry Reciprocity has been in the making for 30 years and we are on the cusp of making it a reality. This will happen as long as voters continue to pressure their members of Congress to vote for it. It's more important than ever that people reach out to their congressmen and tell them to vote yes tomorrow."
Rep. Massie and the National Association for Gun Rights did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Update 11:01 a.m.: This piece has been updated to reflect Gun Owners of America's support for the combined bill being voted on in the House today.