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Congressman Ryan Costello

Representing the 6th District of Pennsylvania

Rep. Costello Applauds Advancement of Background Check Legislation Out of House Judiciary Committee

November 29, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), John Culberson (R-TX), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), and Pete Aguilar (D-CA) recently introduced the Fix NICS Act of 2017. The investigation into the recent shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, revealed enormous gaps in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Because of these gaps in federal and state records, the Fix NICS Act would ensure federal and state authorities comply with existing law and accurately report relevant criminal history records to NICS. It also includes consequences for federal agencies that fail to properly report relevant records and makes sure states improve their overall reporting.

Today, Rep. Costello applauded the bill’s advancement out of the House Judiciary Committee.

“Databases and systems we use for background checks are only as strong as the records are complete,” said Rep. Costello. “The systems must be accurate and comprehensive so that we can stop these tragedies. This bill is yet another example of my bipartisan commitment to take responsible and constitutional steps to prevent gun violence, and I am pleased to see the House Judiciary Committee has voted to advance it out of Committee.”

“Following the horrific shooting that occurred in my district, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, there is a call to action to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again. But many call for new laws often without considering whether or not current laws are being enforced,” said Rep. Cuellar. “Today, we introduced bipartisan legislation that will fill in the gaps in NICS that led to tragedies like the one in Sutherland Springs. The FIX NICS Act is an example of both parties in both chambers of Congress working together to set aside partisan politics and offer real solutions to the American people. I thank Senators John Cornyn, Chris Murphy, Orrin Hatch, Richard Blumenthal, Tim Scott, Dianne Feinstein, Dean Heller, Jeanne Shaheen, and Rep. John Culberson for their leadership on this bill. I am also grateful to Reps. Elizabeth Esty, Ryan Costello, and Pete Aguilar for their support.”

“Had existing law been enforced, the horrific tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas would have never occurred. The pure negligence of criminal history reporting into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) must end,” said Rep. Culberson.  “I’m honored to join my fellow Texas legislators, Senator John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar on the Fix NICS Act and am greatly encouraged at the bipartisan effort to hold federal and state authorities accountable to existing law. I urge my fellow colleagues in Congress to support this critical, lifesaving piece of legislation.”

“This bill is an important first step in the effort to take bipartisan action to keep Americans safe from gun violence,” said Rep. Esty. “There are many more steps I believe we can and should take to protect people from weapons of war, but closing the gaps in NICS – our background check system – is a good start. Our proposal demonstrates that we can find ways to work together to protect our families while respecting the Second Amendment.”

“The gun violence epidemic in our country has devastated too many lives in too many communities, including my own,”said Rep. Aguilar. “By strengthening the background check system, this bill is a commonsense step in the right direction toward preventing future tragedies. We now know that the killers in several recent mass shootings, including the devastating attack in Sutherland Springs, were not supposed to be able to legally purchase guns. Gaps in NICS reporting enabled these murderers to gain access to the weapons they used to inflict immeasurable pain and suffering on communities throughout the country. As Republicans and Democrats, we can agree that strengthening the background check system will give us more tools to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other dangerous criminals. This bill is just plain common sense. I applaud my colleagues in both parties in the House and Senate for working together on this important, bipartisan step forward. We owe it to the moms, dads, and families throughout the country who have laid loved ones to rest to act now.”

“Any improvements that we can make to the background check system is going to help prevent guns from getting into the hands of those ineligible to purchase firearms. This will benefit public safety and hopefully prevent another tragedy from occurring. I fully support any legislation that would improve our background check system thus improving public safety. I appreciate Congressman Costello's support of this very important legislation,” said Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams.

Organizations in Support of the Fix NICS Act:

“This legislation is an important step forward for gun safety, and we applaud members of Congress for working in a bipartisan way to improve submission of records into the background check system and help keep guns away from domestic abusers and violent criminals. This should not be a political issue. Improving reporting into the background check system is just common sense, and Congress should get this done." -John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety

"Passing this bill would signal that Congress has heard the calls, emails and texts of countless Americans hungry for common sense solutions to gun violence. I'm grateful to members of Congress from both parties for working on this important legislation, because improving the background check system and keeping guns away from domestic abusers and violent criminals shouldn’t be a political issue. That work must begin with making the current system as effective as possible." -Angela Turner, volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

“Research and history have shown a strong correlation between a domestic violence perpetrator’s acts of domestic violence and the likelihood that the perpetrator will bring that abuse into the community by carrying out a mass shooting. As advocates, we know that entering domestic violence court records into the background check system is the best way to keep guns out of the hands of convicted abusers. This bill will help save the lives of victims of domestic violence and the communities in which they live and worship, by ensuring that domestic violence records are entered properly and consistently into the background check system.” -Katie Ray Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said in support of the Fix NICS Act

Background on the Fix NICS Act 

  • Requires federal agencies and states to produce NICS implementation plans focused on uploading all information to the background check system showing that a person is prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms under current law—including measures to verify the accuracy of records. 
  • Holds federal agencies accountable if they fail to upload relevant records to the background check system through public reporting and prohibiting bonus pay for political appointees.   
  • Rewards states who comply with their NICS implementation plans through federal grant preferences and incentives, while increasing accountability through public reporting for those who do not comply with their plans. 
  • Reauthorizes and improves important law enforcement programs to help state governments share relevant criminal record information with NICS. 
  • Creates a Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative to ensure that states have adequate resources and incentives to share all relevant information with NICS showing that a felon or domestic abuser is excluded from purchasing firearms under current law. 
  • Provides important technical assistance to federal agencies and states who are working to comply with NICS record-sharing requirements.
  • Includes a study on the frequency of the use of bump stocks in the commission of a crime in the U.S.

For the bill text of Fix NICS Act, click here.

Click here for information on Rep. Costello’s legislation, the Domestic Violence Records Reporting Improvement Act of 2017, which would incentivize states to report domestic violence records to NICS and make grants more available to states to help them carry out this essential reporting.