By Columnist Jim Kouri
The Justice Department is preparing to spend an additional $20 million to upgrade the firearm background check system and assist individual states in improving their capability to share information with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), according to a statement from Attorney General Eric Holder released on Friday.
According to Holder’s statement, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) will provide three grants to help state, territorial and tribal efforts to reduce errors made in gathering information and quicken the availability of all records prohibiting the purchase or possession of firearms to NICS.
“As part of President (Barack) Obama’s comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence, the Administration is committed to enhancing and strengthening the national criminal record system in support of stronger firearm background checks,” said Attorney General Holder.
“The Department of Justice intends to take immediate and effective action to work with states to fill gaps in information currently available to the NICS system,” he said.
The monetary grants will be used to improve access to and reporting of mental health information such as involuntary commitments to mental health facilities, felony convictions as well as misdemeanor convictions of domestic violence, domestic violence restraining orders and immediate access to active felony and misdemeanor warrants, according to Justice Department officials.
But a number of law enforcement commanders believe this will prove to be just another exercise in futility similar to the Brady Law which called for waiting periods and background checks of all firearms purchasers.
For example, in a survey of police chiefs and sheriffs by the National Association of Chiefs of Police, when asked, “Do you believe that a waiting period to purchase a handgun or any type of firearm will have any effect on criminals getting firearms?” 70.91 percent answered No.
In that same survey, when asked, “Would you agree that most criminals obtain their weapons illegally?” A whopping 89.94 percent answered Yes.
But Holder and his advisors believe this new initiative creates a competitive grant program “designed to [sic]incentivize states, territories and tribes to share information with NICS by closing information gaps that inhibit complete and accurate background checks.”
According to Holder’s announcement, in 2009, after the Virginia Tech shootings, the Bureau of Justice Statistics launched the NARIP, addressing information requirements of NICS firearm background checks and requiring states to make additional records available.
However, according to former NYPD detective Benjamin Cardoza-Sanchez, “There is little, if any, proof that these programs reduce the number of firearms in the hands of the ‘bad guys’ let alone reduce violence and crime.”
Jim Kouri, CPP, the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.