Key congressional Democrats have reached agreement with the National Rifle Association on the first federal gun-control legislation since 1994: a measure to strengthen the national system that checks the backgrounds of gun buyers, reports the Washington Post. The talks began in April, after a mentally ill gunman, Seung Hui Cho, killed 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech University. He had been judicially ordered to submit to a psychiatric evaluation, which should have disqualified him from buying handguns. Virginia never forwarded that information to the federal National Instant Check System (NICS), and the massacre exposed a loophole in the 13-year-old background-check program.
Under the congressional agreement, participating states would be given monetary enticements for the first time to keep the background database up to date, as well as penalties for failing to comply. The NRA won significant concessions from Democratic negotiators in weeks of painstaking talks. Individuals with minor infractions in their pasts could ask states to have their names removed from the federal database; 83,000 military veterans, put into the system by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2000 for alleged mental health reasons, would have a chance to clean their records. The federal government would be barred from charging gun buyers or sellers a fee for their background checks. Faulty records such as duplicative names or expunged convictions would be scrubbed from the database.