The Department of Justice unveiled its own school safety proposals in Monday night, which will work in tandem with President Donald Trump’s plan.
The proposals include holding federal agencies accountable for failing to update the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; ordering the FBI to identify states that are not reporting arrests to state databases and more aggressive prosecution of individuals who lie on gun applications.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions Monday sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking the agency to identify problems with updating the NICS system, which is supposed to work to prevent individuals with mental health issues from purchasing guns.
“It is essential that relevant mental health determinations by state and local officers are accessible to the NICS system,” Mr. Sessions wrote. “We cannot allow an individual who is prohibited from possessing firearms to pass a background check simply because the information was not made available to you.”
There are about 2,083 state and federal agencies responsible for providing information for background checks across he country, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics report. Agencies required to update information to NICS include courts, state health departments and mental health hospitals.
The NICS system has improved in recent years. Since becoming law in 1993 as part of the Brady Bill, NICS stopped just 3,200 gun purchases in its first nine years. By the end of 2016, it had stopped 4.7 million mentally ill people from buying guns.
Mr. Sessions also sent a letter to U.S. Attorneys across the country demanding “swift and aggressive” prosecution of people who lie on their firearm applications. He ordered each U.S. Attorney to meet with ATF officials in their district to discuss ways to review and revise prosecution procedures in these cases.
Lying to pass a background check is a federal crime that carries a 10-year prison sentence, but not every state enforces or prosecutes the crime. For example, in Florida where the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting took place, the law is rarely enforced.
Nationwide, fewer than 32 so-called “lie and try” cases a year were considered for prosecution, according to a 2016 report from the Justice Department’s inspector general.
“Criminals and other prohibited persons who attempt to thwart the background check process by lying on the required forms threaten to undermine this important crime prevention tool,” Mr. Sessions wrote. “Such conduct cannot be tolerated.”
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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