An unusual bipartisan group in Congress has agreed on a deal to provide more than $1.1 billion to help prevent felons, illegal immigrants and others from buying guns, the New York Times reports. The measure could represent the most significant gun safety initiative approved by Congress in seven years.
On a rare subject of agreement, gun rights backers like Michigan House Democrat John Dingell and gun control advocates believe that the F.B.I.’s system for background checks on seven million would-be gun buyers each year is badly broken.
Gun groups complain that it still takes too long for many purchases to be approved. Gun control supporters say that thousands of felons, spouse abusers, illegal immigrants, people with a history of mental illness and others banned by federal law from buying guns continue slipping through the cracks.
The new plan would provide state agencies and courts with $375 million a year for the next three years to upgrade databases on criminals and other types of banned people. It would also penalize states that fail to meet certain performance markers by cutting their federal grant money.
The aim, said Idaho Republican Sen. Larry E. Craig, is to create “an effective, accurate, speedy background check” and to keep guns from people who are prohibited from owning them.
Craig, a board member of the National Rifle Association, and Mr. Dingell, a past board member, announced the agreement with gun control advocates Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representative Carolyn McCarthy, both Democrats of New York. The measure also is backed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah, making congressional passage likely.
Some mental health advocates fear that the plan could further stigmatize the mentally ill and violate their privacy rights by putting more medical information into a national database.
“The significant thing about this legislation,” said Jim Kessler of Americans for Gun Safety, “is that it explodes the myth that nothing can be achieved on guns in Congress.”