Congressman Panetta Introduces Gun Safety Bill to Ensure Completion of Background Checks

February 25, 2020
Press Release

SALINAS, CA – Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) announced that he introduced gun safety legislation to ensure completion of background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) system.  Currently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is statutorily required to purge incomplete gun background checks from its systems if they are not completed within 88 days, a practice that could allow gun sales without a completed background check.  Congressman Panetta’s legislation, the NICS Data Integrity Act, H.R.5949, will eliminate the statutory requirement to purge NICS data on background checks and instead maintain the data in its systems until the check is complete.  

"When data is purged from the NICS system, there is no way to know how many people have purchased guns without a completed background check or how many firearm purchases would have been blocked if the background checks were complete," said Congressman Panetta.  "As a former prosecutor, I know the importance of keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous people. My bill will help in that effort by ensuring people who should not have a firearm don’t get a firearm because of a bureaucratic lapse."

The NICS Data Integrity Act also requires the FBI query its National Data Exchange, or N-DEx, database when it does an initial background check. N-DEx is an unclassified national information-sharing system that enables criminal justice agencies to search, link, analyze, and share local, state, tribal, and federal records. Currently, background check examiners can only query N-DEx to research a delayed background check.

An internal report from the FBI showed that between 2014 and July 2019, the agency was required to purge the data of over 1.1 million incomplete background checks. The FBI found that, because of delayed background checks, at least 3,960 weapons in 2018 ended up in the hands of people who should not legally have had them.

Since that data is purged, there is no way to know how many people have purchased guns without a completed background check or how many firearm purchases would have been blocked if the background checks were complete. 

The full bill text of the NICS Data Integrity Act is available here.

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