Is Congress Really Inactive On Gun Sales?

Everywhere you look, you can probably find an anti-gunner upset that Congress hasn’t done anything to combat so-called “gun violence.” They argue that without things like universal background checks or red flag laws, we’ll continue to be at the mercy of maniacs seeking notoriety through mass violence.


Of course, mass shootings are still relatively rare, thankfully, but they’re still horrific regardless of the rate in which they happen. Yet the real threat to the American people comes from more mundane gun crimes.

On that front, though, has Congress really been inactive?

Not really.

None of this means that all legislation related to gun ownership has to be either ineffective or unconstitutional. There are glaring holes to be patched in the nation’s gun market, if people are only willing to take off their ideological blinders and tend to more practical matters. One key is to focus on who is allowed to purchase guns and not on which guns they are allowed to purchase. Another is to enforce existing laws, because they are poorly enforced and we know for a fact that people have died as a result.

For example, as we have repeatedly noted in this space, the instant background check system for gun buyers — known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS — has long been a dumpster fire. Its records are woefully incomplete, and the bureaucrats who run it are either overworked or incompetent or both.

It is documented that between bureaucratic mistakes and inconsistent state and federal agency reporting requirements, several mass shooters have passed background checks and purchased weapons when they should have been flagged and prevented from buying them. As we have previously noted, literally dozens of people killed in mass shootings this century might be alive today if NICS only worked the way it was intended in identifying the mentally ill and criminals who attempt illegally to purchase guns.

For that reason, it is heartening that lawmakers were actually able to do something meaningful and useful about illegal gun sales last year without gutting the Second Amendment. Last March, as part of its annual spending bill, Congress passed the Fix NICS Act, which is designed to do just what it says. The law requires federal agencies to develop detailed plans and supply the necessary records about restricted buyers. It also provides funding and incentives for states to keep and bring their records up to date as well.


And, frankly, it’s worked.

The FixNICS may upset some, but the truth is that it didn’t really change the law. It just tried to make the existing law more effective, and it apparently has. It seems states are cooperating and making the NICS actually effective. An additional 6 million record have been reportedly added to the database, thus adding relevant information on millions of ineligible buyers.

While anti-gunners are focused on universal background checks–something that will only impact a tiny minority of firearm sales throughout the nation–the real work is being done with the NICS to keep people who shouldn’t be buying guns from doing so.

Of course, the problem is that NICS only covers those who have already done something to warrant them being excluded from firearm ownership, but that’s the problem with rights. You don’t get to take them from people who haven’t done anything to warrant taking them.

The NICS focuses on listing those who have. Getting all the names in the database is incredibly important, and I’m glad the early evidence suggests it’s working.

Now, we just need those trying to purchase weapons illegally to be arrested so they recognize the risk in even trying it.

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