Press Release

ARS & Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence Release New Report on Closing Gaps in Federal Background Checks System

December 8, 2016  — Today, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its partner organization the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, released a new report on the ways state lawmakers can strengthen one of our most valuable tools when it comes to saving lives from gun violence—the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). For the Record: NICS & Public Safety examines the background checks process, the challenges the system faces, and the best practices lawmakers can adopt to improve the quality and number of records in the NICS databases. 

In 2014 alone, the NICS database stopped 147,000 prohibited people from buying guns from federally licensed dealers. But too many other prohibited purchasers are slipping through the cracks because of missing or incomplete records in the NICS databases. In 2014, more than 700,000 domestic violence protective orders never made it to the system, despite domestic abuse being a leading cause of gun violence.

This new analysis from the nation’s leading gun law experts is essential to understanding how the background checks process works, and the report sheds light on how making improvements to this complex system of databases can save lives. Our nation desperately needs tools like NICS to be as strong and effective as possible, and improving this system represents a leap forward in the effort to save lives from gunfire.

For the Record: NICS & Public Safety also reveals:

  • The background checks process does not act as a barrier to the legal sale or transfer of a gun—most checks are completed in less than two minutes.
  • At least 20 states have improved the way they report mental health records since 2013, making these pieces of legislation one of the most popular ways to combat gun violence.
  • In recent years, states like Arizona and Virginia have dramatically improved the way they send records to NICS, making it far more difficult for guns to fall into dangerous hands.

“Improving state record reporting practices is one of the simplest, most impactful steps lawmakers can take to make vast improvements to the NICS databases, making it tougher for convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing deadly weapons,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “A vast majority of Americans support background checks as a frontline defense against gun violence, and understanding and improving the NICS databases are a key component to that strategy.”

“With our federal gun laws weakened by the gun show and internet loopholes and Congress unwilling to close them, state legislators around the country are asking what they can do to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. This report is an invaluable resource to lawmakers who want to take responsible action to ensure dangerous people are in the background check system,” said Peter Ambler, Executive Director, Americans for Responsible Solutions. “In the coming months, we look forward to working with these lawmakers to strengthen the NICS databases, keep guns out of dangerous hands, and save lives.”

The daily presence of gun violence leaves our communities at grave risk—fortunately, this is not a problem without an effective, practical solution. Enacting universal background checks, and strengthening the NICS databases are two of the most effective ways legislators can protect their constituents from gun violence while still respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.

For more information on background checks and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, read For the Record: NICS & Public Safety.