CLARKSBURG, WV - Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry, told users of the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) today that industry fully supports Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell's call for making mental health and other prohibiting information available to NICS to ensure that illegal firearm purchases are prevented.
Keane was an invited speaker at the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System User Conference at NICS headquarters here. Attending the conference were federal NICS officials and officials from "point of contact' states that use NICS fully or in part to conduct background checks on firearms purchasers.
"Firearms retailers nationwide rely on NICS to facilitate and ensure the lawful transfer of guns to law-abiding citizens, and the efficient system, which our industry supports, can be made even better with the addition of mental health adjudication and other prohibiting records," said Keane.
In a letter sent last month to other governors, Gov. McDonell urged states to make available to NICS the most comprehensive data available on persons prohibited from possessing firearms, including "mental health adjudications and commitments and other prohibiting backgrounds." The governor's letter referenced the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings five years ago and that the shooter was able to purchase a firearm legally from a federally licensed firearms retailer "because information about his prohibiting mental health was not available to deny the transfer . . . ."
Keane said that Gov. McDonnell and Virginia have shown leadership in making such information available to NICS. "When other states follow Virginia's example, the background check system will function more effectively to help prevent illegal purchases of firearms by those who are prohibited," said Keane.
Keane told attendees that NSSF supports Gov. McDonnell's effort because industry supports the NICS Improvement Amendments Act (NIAA) that addresses gaps in information available to NICS, such as court decisions related to individuals' mental health status. The law was signed by President George W. Bush in 2008.
Retailer Background Checks on Employees
Keane also voiced NSSF's support for legislation that would allow federal firearms licensees (FFLs) to conduct a background check on their current or prospective employees, an action currently prohibited unless the retailer is transferring a firearm to the employee. "Performing employee background checks are one way that retailers can ensure the integrity of their staffs and, ultimately, their businesses," said Keane.
A change in the Brady Act and regulations would allow FFLs to access NICS on a voluntary, no-fee basis to conduct the background check on an employee without fear of liability under the Fair Credit Report Act.
Keane expressed industry's appreciation to attendees for their role in helping to make the NICS system function. He noted that NICS has never been busier, citing statistics showing how background checks have been increasing over time. The NICS system is one indicator of market activity for firearms, the sales of which have increased dramatically in recent months.
From NICS' inception in November 1998 through last March, 145.7 million background checks have been conducted.
The most background checks for any month occurred last December with 1,882,000 conducted, and three of the "top ten" days for background checks have occurred since "Black Friday" last November.
March 2012 marked the 22nd straight month that NSSF-adjusted NICS figures have increased in a month-over-month comparison.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 7,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers. For more information, log on t www.nssf.org