Reps. Rice & Costello Introduce Bill to Help Prevent Domestic Abusers from Buying Guns
Bipartisan bill creates incentives for states to improve reporting of domestic violence records to federal background check systems
WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and Ryan Costello (R-PA) today introduced new legislation to help prevent domestic abusers from buying guns by creating incentives for states to provide complete domestic violence records to federal background check databases, and by providing grant funding to help states improve their reporting processes. H.R. 4183, the Domestic Violence Records Reporting Improvement Act of 2017, encourages states to improve domestic violence records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in two ways. First, it would require states to properly report domestic violence records in order to be eligible for National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) grants, which provide funding to states to improve reporting of criminal history records and protection orders for gun purchaser background checks and for other reasons. The bill would require NCHIP grants to be used specifically to improve the accessibility of domestic violence records through NICS, unless the state receiving the grant has already made a certain percentage of its domestic violence records accessible through NICS. Second, the bill would make NICS Act Record Improvement Program (NARIP) grants more available to states that want to use those grants to improve the accessibility of domestic violence records in NICS. NARIP grants are available to states specifically to improve the reporting of criminal history, mental health, and protection order records to NICS for gun purchaser background checks. However, states are currently not eligible for these grants if they haven’t implemented a program that provides a way for people subject to the mental health disqualifiers to regain their gun eligibility. 21 states did not have such programs as of February 2016. H.R. 4183 removes that legal barrier so that states that want to improve domestic violence reporting are not denied funding that can help them do so.
“When domestic abusers can easily buy guns, their partners too often end up dead – that’s what happens when our background check system lacks complete, up-to-date domestic violence records from every state in the country,” said Representative Kathleen Rice. “Our bipartisan bill creates common-sense incentives for states to improve their reporting of domestic violence records so that we can enforce the law, keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and save lives. New York has been a national leader when it comes to reporting domestic violence records, and this bill will help ensure that every state in the country approaches this problem with the same level of commitment.”
“I am committed to rededicating our efforts to encourage states to report domestic violence records to the appropriate government agencies, as this critical information could result in saved lives,” said Rep. Ryan Costello. “Our background check system is only as strong as it is comprehensive, and this legislation will help keep our communities safe by making sure officials have the tools and resources they need to report the information that makes these records complete.”
“Domestic violence and firearms violence are a lethal combination. That’s why domestic abusers should not be able to easily access firearms. Our elected leaders must step up and close loopholes in our laws to enhance the safety of women, families and our communities.” Said Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, founder of Giffords. “I applaud Congressman Ryan Costello and Congresswoman Kathleen Rice for putting forward a bipartisan piece of legislation that requires states to fully upload domestic violence records into the background check system. I urge my former colleagues to pass this bill and help make women and their families safer from domestic abusers with guns.”
Additional Background on HR. 4183:
Research has shown that victims of domestic violence are at a much higher risk of being killed if their abuser owns a gun, which is why federal law restricts gun ownership for individuals who have been convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanors as well as individuals who are subject to certain kinds of restraining orders. However, domestic abusers who meet these criteria are still often able to pass background checks and buy guns because the federal background check system lacks sufficient information on domestic violence records.
The federal background check requirement involves a search through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a group of databases maintained by the FBI using information provided primarily by states and local governments. The extent to which domestic violence records are accessible during a NICS background check varies significantly from state to state. Many states have no protocols to distinguish misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from other misdemeanor convictions in their records, and many states do not provide sufficient information to NICS about domestic violence restraining orders. Without this information, NICS cannot readily identify whether a conviction or restraining order disqualifies a person from possessing a gun, meaning that domestic abusers can still pass a NICS background check. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), inadequacies in the available records allowed domestic abusers to pass background checks and obtain guns more than 6,700 times between 2006 and 2015.
H.R. 4183 will create incentives for states to improve their domestic violence reporting in two ways: