Washington, D.C. – Today, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Arkadi Gerney issued the following statement after the House Committee on Appropriations voted to advance and fund an important program to improve gun background checks while also extending restrictions that undermine law enforcement efforts to combat gun trafficking.
The committee agreed to more than $58 million for grants to ensure states are supplying all appropriate records of those prohibited from purchasing firearms to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, and to add a requirement for FBI to report on the progress states and pertinent federal agencies are making toward submitting records to the NICS system each year. However, the committee also continued to severely undermine the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives’, or ATF’s, ability to combat gun trafficking by voting to maintain a restriction that prevents ATF from requiring gun dealers to audit their own inventories for lost or stolen guns.
Today the House Appropriations Committee took two steps forward to improve firearm background checks and one big step backward by extending restrictions that tie the hands of ATF. The new FBI reporting language and more than $58 million dollars of funding will help ensure that more records of prohibited gun purchasers, including felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, and seriously mentally ill persons, are actually included in the NICS background check system.
The committee, however, also voted to restrict an ATF program that tracks the bulk buying of assault rifles by gun traffickers on the Southwest border and continued a restriction to block an inventory requirement that would help gun dealers know when guns are lost or stolen from their stores. The committee also rejected a proposal to require gun dealers to conduct background checks on their employees to ensure that prohibited purchasers are not working behind the counter. The House of Representatives should be helping police, not the Mexican drug cartel gun traffickers who are fueling killings of both sides of the border.
In all, appropriators preserved more than 10 harmful provisions known as riders. An amendment offered by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) to overturn the rider that prevents ATF from requiring gun dealers to conduct annual inventory audits was defeated. The committee also added a new restriction by a vote of 29–18 to block a 2011 ATF regulation to track bulk buying of assault rifles in the Southwest border states. The ATF regulation, which has been challenged and upheld in multiple federal court cases, led to the arrest and prosecution of more than 100 Mexican drug cartel gun traffickers in just its eight months. Recent prior House budgets have included this provision, which has been rejected in the Senate.