Cornyn Introduces Gun Background Check Bill Endorsed by NRA

Sen. John Cornyn
Sen. John Cornyn / AP

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R., Texas) introduced a bill Wednesday with support from the National Rifle Association that would incite states to submit information about individuals with serious mental illnesses to the federal background check system for gun ownership.

Cornyn introduced the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, which is designed to fix the current background check system and not expand it. The legislation would also increase programs to treat the mentally ill and improve crisis response by local officials.

"While potentially dangerous mentally ill individuals are often known to law enforcement and local officials, gaps in existing law or inadequate resources prevent our communities from taking proactive steps to prevent them from becoming violent," Cornyn said in a statement.

"This legislation will strengthen programs that promote preventative screening and crisis response training so that we can better understand and treat the factors which may endanger public safety," the Texas lawmaker continued. "By giving our communities the resources necessary to recognize and prevent acts of violence, we not only protect American families, but help those affected by mental illness."

The bill has been endorsed by a variety of organizations, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Police Organizations, and American Correctional Association, in addition to the NRA.

According to an Associated Press report, NRA legislative affairs spokeswoman Jennifer Baker explained that the bill takes "meaningful steps toward fixing the system and making our communities safer."

While individuals deemed "mentally defective" and those committed to mental institutions are blocked from purchasing firearms, states are not required to send such mental health records to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used to prevent certain individuals from obtaining guns. 

Cornyn’s legislation would increase grants awarded under the government’s main law enforcement program by as much as 5 percent for states who report upwards of 90 percent of their records on seriously mentally ill residents to the federal background check system.

In contrast, states who do not provide such a percentage of records could see a reduction in grants.

Earlier this week, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) introduced much stricter gun legislation intended to block mentally ill individuals in addition to violent criminals and abusers from owning firearms.

The Obama White House has been feverishly pursuing tight gun control measures as the president’s final term draws to a close. Most recently, the administration sought to bar certain seniors receiving Social Security benefits from owning firearms if they are deemed no longer able to handle their affairs, a move that both the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation have vowed to fight.