A bipartisan measure aimed at improving background checks for gun sales is expected to be unveiled on Thursday, after a mass shooting in Texas that officials say might have been prevented if the gunman’s conviction on assault charges had been flagged in a national database.
Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and John Cornyn, R-Tex., have been working together on the legislation that a Senate aide tells NPR’s Shirley Henry would “improve enforcement of current law and ensure states and federal agencies upload records into the background check system.”
On Wednesday, Murphy tweeted: “Big news: super close to a bipartisan breakthrough on gun legislation. Stay tuned…”
Earlier this month, Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people. It was later revealed that Kelley, a former airman, had been court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his then-wife and stepson, but that the Air Force failed to report his conviction to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
As NPR reported the day after the shooting: “Under federal law, his conviction disqualified him from legally possessing a firearm. But there was an apparent breakdown in getting information about his conviction to the proper federal database.”
Last week, Cornyn said he would introduce legislation to ensure that all federal departments and agencies send conviction records to NICS.
“My hope is that we can expedite consideration of this, get it into law, and then make sure that this sort of thing never happens again,” Cornyn told reporters, according to The Hill.
“This individual should not have been able to legally purchase a firearm. We have a background check system, which is designed to weed out people with mental illness, people who are convicted felons, people who are child and spouse abusers, and this individual was all of those things,” he said.
In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were killed, a measure was introduced in 2013 that would, among other provisions, have tightened penalties on states that do not submit electronic records on firearms eligibility to NICS. The measure died in committee.
While this measure reaches across the partisan aisle, it remains a deal brokered between senators, and there is no indication that House Republicans will be eager to pass it.