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November 28, 2017

On Fixing Gun Background Checks, Give Credit Where It Is Due

This op-ed was originally published in the Hearst Connecticut media group’s eight daily newspapers on Nov. 28, 2017.

By Lawrence G. Keane

We would like to welcome Connecticut’s Democratic Senators to the important issue on which we have been diligently working on a national basis with considerable success since 2013.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, co-sponsors of S. 2135, the Fix NICS Act, certainly know that the very firearms industry they have chosen to attack politically over recent years in fact originated the concept of fixing the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS).

Even as he took credit for an approach they had earlier chosen to ignore, Sen. Blumenthal at a press conference with Sen. Murphy in Hartford could not depart from the familiar narrative trail saying, “I think we’re at a tipping point. We’re beginning to see a break in the vice-like grip of the gun lobby.’’

How does that work exactly?

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, on the other hand, had no problem crediting my association, taking to Twitter to do just that. Bi-partisan comity being a difficult task in the Senate these days, we thank him and would not expect our Connecticut Senators to follow suit based on their track records.

Firearms Retailers on the Front Lines

The NICS system that we all agree needs fixing was established 17 years ago with Congressional passage of the Brady Act. Today, it is generally not known that instant criminal background check system was the recommendation of the firearms industry. For the most part, the system works. We know this system better than anyone because our retailers are on the front lines every day using it to help protect public safety. That’s why we launched the FixNICS® initiative.

Despite what you hear from those who just don’t know better, or worse, those who have become accustomed to using the politics of division on this issue for political advantage, no one who sells firearms for their livelihood wants to put a gun into the hands of a criminal or a mentally unstable individual. We have families and are citizens, too. We know what guns can do when in the wrong hands. But hear this: the many thousands of Americans who work in the firearms industry are tired of being portrayed as villains.

We are nearing the end of the fourth year of our industry’s national effort led by the National Shooting Sports Foundation® to ensure that the system has all the appropriate records put into it. We have been successful through our direct efforts in convincing 16 state legislatures to pass reforms to ensure that there are no statutory, regulatory, administrative or procedural impediments to entering all appropriate records – criminal and mental health – into NICS.

Records Submissions Up Sharply

NSSF’s work has resulted in a 170 percent increase in records submission, to 4.5 million in 2013 up from only 1.7 million in 2013

We prefer to be called the firearms industry, but the “gun lobby” that our Senators like to attack did that. We don’t expect the gun control groups to provide any credit to our industry. It runs counter to the long-running narrative that they proffer, but we should all expect more from our elected officials. As for the journalists who cover the issue, verifying information should be part of every story filed.

Let us be clear on one more thing, improving the NICS system is not a “gun control measure.” It is the best solution for improving the system in the manner that will make the most difference in improving public safety and that will best serve the American people.  We’ve been saying that all along.

You might also be interested in: Without Fanfare, NSSF’s FixNICS Campaign Has Made a Difference

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Tags: fixnics National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Sen. Chris Murphy Sen. John Cornyn Sen. Richard Blumenthal

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