As Chairman of the Second Amendment Caucus, I’m blowing the whistle on the swamp. Last week, Republicans in the House fast-tracked through committee HR 4477, a gun bill titled “fix-NICS.” The Senate version of this bill is co-sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Chuck Schumer and it will send $625 million over 5 years to states to expand the national background check database. The bill will also advance former President Obama’s agenda of pressuring every branch of the administration (such as the Veteran’s Administration) to submit thousands of more names to the NICS background check database to deny gun purchases. The House bill is identical in every way to the Senate bill except the House bill will also commission a study on bump-stocks.
What you don’t know, and what virtually no one in Washington wants you to know, is that House leadership plans to merge the fix-NICS bill with popular Concealed Carry Reciprocity legislation, HR 38, and pass both of them with a single vote. Folks, this is how the swamp works. House leadership expects constituents to call their representatives demanding a vote on the reciprocity bill, when in fact the only vote will be on the two combined bills.
How fast did Fix-NICS, HR 4477, move through the Judiciary Committee? This bill broke the previous records for fast-track legislation. It was voted out of committee within hours of being introduced in the House. Check the dates on this link: https://www.congress.gov/…/115th-congr…/house-bill/4477/text . That means the text of the bill wasn’t even discoverable by the public on congress.gov until after the bill passed out of committee! The text was however available over in the Senate where you will find Senator Diane Feinstein and Senator Chuck Schumer are cosponsors. https://www.congress.gov/…/115t…/senate-bill/2135/cosponsors
If that’s not odd enough, consider this: the fix-NICS bill was introduced in the House by a Democrat two weeks ago. https://www.congress.gov/…/115th-congr…/house-bill/4434/text . But, in a very unusual move, the bill was re-introduced verbatim by a Republican two weeks later, with language added to it to commission a bump-stock study. Six Republicans in Judiciary Committee weren’t persuaded by the switcheroo and voted No. However, because every Democrat voted yes and some Republicans voted yes at the urging of the Chairman, the bill made it out of committee. The deed will be complete this week when the bill is quietly added to the Reciprocity bill, HR 38, and passed without the knowledge of those who would oppose the legislation if they knew what was in it.
To recap, what are some clues that you should be concerned with the fix-NICS bill?
(1) The first sentence after the title of the bill reads “Section 103 of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (34 U.S.C. 40901) is amended…”
(2) Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer are cosponsors in the Senate.
(3) It’s being rammed through, without a hearing, in a very nontransparent process, and it will be passed by attaching it to the popular concealed carry reciprocity bill which already has enough votes to pass on its own.
(4) It spends over half a billion dollars to collect more names to include in a list of people who will never be allowed to own a firearm.
(5) It compels administrative agencies, not just courts, to adjudicate your second amendment rights.
In my opinion, #5 is the biggest problem. The bill encourages administrative agencies, not the courts, to submit more names to a national database that will determine whether you can or can’t obtain a firearm. When President Obama couldn’t get Congress to pass gun control, he implemented a strategy of compelling, through administrative rules, the Veterans Administration and the Social Security Administration to submit lists of veterans and seniors, many of whom never had a day in court, to be included in the NICS database of people prohibited from owning a firearm. Only a state court, a federal (article III) court, or a military court, should ever be able to suspend your rights for any significant period of time.
Does the NICS background check system have problems? Yes, it results in tens of thousands of unjustified denials of gun purchases every year. But like many bills in Congress, the fix-NICS doesn’t live up to its name – it will likely do the opposite. It throws millions of dollars at a faulty program and it will result in more law-abiding citizens being deprived of their right to keep and bear arms.
If we continue to give the executive branch more money and encouragement to add names to the list of people prohibited from buying a firearm (without a day in court) and if the gun banners achieve their goal of universal background checks, one day, a single person elected to the office of President will be able to achieve universal gun prohibition.
House leadership should immediately de-couple the fix-NICS legislation from the concealed carry reciprocity legislation. People hate it when Washington combines bills like our leadership plans to do this week.
A few have speculated that the House is combining the bills to ensure reciprocity will pass in the Senate. I have some news for them: Senators Feinstein and Schumer aren’t going to vote for reciprocity even if it contains the fix-NICS legislation they support for expanding the background check database. If someone is naïve enough to think that’s going to work, and they’re willing to accept fix-NICS to get reciprocity, then they should ask the Senate to go first with the combined bill.
Here’s a dangerous scenario that’s more likely to play out: The House uses the popularity of reciprocity (HR 38) to sneak fix-NICS through, while the Senate passes fix-NICS only. The Senate and the House meet at conference with their respective bills, with the result being fix-NICS emerges from conference without reciprocity. Fix-NICS comes back to the House and passes because all of the Democrats will vote for it (as they just did in Judiciary Committee) and many Republicans will vote for it. Because Republicans already voted for it once as part of the reciprocity deal that never came to pass, they won’t have a solid footing for opposing fix-NICS as a standalone bill. Then we’ll end up with fix-NICS, which is basically an expansion of the Brady Bill, without reciprocity.
If our House leadership insists on bringing the flawed fix-NICS bill to the floor, they shouldn’t play games. We should vote separately on HR 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill, and HR 4477, the fix-NICS bill. And we should be given enough time to amend the fix-NICS bill, because it needs to be fixed, if not axed.
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