Graham introduces background check bill with NRA backing
March 6th, 2013
08:04 PM ET
10 years ago

Graham introduces background check bill with NRA backing

Washington (CNN) – New legislation introduced Wednesday aims to close one loophole in the process of purchasing a gun.

The bill from Sen. Lindsey Graham and three other bipartisan lawmakers expands the scope of mental health information submitted to the background check system used by gun sellers. It has the backing of the National Rifle Association, and background check-related legislation has been considered the most likely of the various gun violence proposals to survive the legislative process.

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It does not address a second loophole in the background check requirements – the gun show loophole – which critics say provides an avenue for people who know they cannot pass a background check to buy firearms.

Graham stood with co-sponsors Jeff Flake, R-Arizona and Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas at a news conference Wednesday and said the bill addresses a “major flaw in the system.”

“We have legislation that will make sure that in the future, people who find themselves in this legal category of having gone to a federal court and plead not guilty by reason of insanity, having been … judged by (a) federal court to be dangerous to themselves and others, would no longer be able legally to pass a background check,” he said. “There are a lot of emotions about the gun violence issue. But I am hopeful this (is) one area where we can find tremendous bipartisan support to fix what I think is a gaping gap in our law.”

This bill would expand the scope of the current federal database – the National Instant Criminal Background Check System – to flag individuals who have used an insanity defense, were ruled by a court to be dangerous, or were committed by a court to mental health treatment.

It includes, for example, individuals found not guilty because of mental illness in a criminal case, those “found guilty but mentally ill,” and people found “incompetent to stand trial,” according to a summary of the legislation provided to reporters by Graham’s office.

The National Rifle Association announced its support for the legislation saying it would “improve” the current background check system.

“This bill will create accurate definitions of those who pose serious threats and should be barred from the ability to buy or possess a firearm, while protecting the rights of law abiding citizens and veterans,” said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.

CNN contacted the prominent gun control advocacy group the Brady Campaign to Reduce Gun Violence for comment on the legislation but did not receive a response.

The group’s president, Dan Gross, said on CNN’s Guns Under Fire: An AC360º Town Hall Special in January that his group was concerned about people with mental health issues slipping through the background check system, but had other concerns, too.

“The Brady Law passed in 1993 has prevented nearly 2 million convicted felons, domestic abusers, dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun,” he said. “Did people fall through the cracks in those background checks? Very possibly yes, and there are things we should do about it.

“But the reality is 40% of gun sales in our country don't requite a background check,” he said, referring to the gun show loophole. “Every day in our country, there are guns being purchased by dangerous people, and we can stop that just by extending background checks.”

The gun violence reduction group founded by former U.S Rep. Gaby Giffords and her husband, Americans for Responsible Solutions, echoed Gross’ sentiment.

"We are glad that Senators Graham, Flake, Pryor and Begich agree that America has a problem with gun violence. And we agree with their ideas for strengthening the NICS system” said Pia Carusone, executive director of the new group. “But they cannot ignore the fact that 40% of the guns purchased in this country are bought outside of the system all together –meaning dangerous people have easy access to guns.”

Increasing the scope of background checks, Carusone noted, has broad support - 92% of respondents to a January CNN/TIME/ORC poll were in favor. To not pass legislation dealing with it “would be simply bowing to pressure from the gun lobby.”

Begich, one of the Democratic co-sponsors of the legislation, said at Wednesday’s press conference would both prevent individuals with mental health issues from purchasing guns, but also develops consistency in the legal process.

“In addition, the bill will strengthen the rights for people with mental health illnesses,” he said. “It provides a specific definition of mentally incompetent … that only includes individuals involuntarily committed to treatment.”

Graham is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which on Thursday will consider several pieces of gun-related legislation introduced by Democrats, including an assault weapons ban, a gun-trafficking bill and a school-safety measure.

Graham pressed Attorney General Eric Holder at a hearing Wednesday about the number of prosecutions of people who failed a background check.

Holder said cases were “individually examined” by prosecutors for suitability. In cases where the individual failed because he was a fugitive from justice, Holder said, “that is something that should perhaps be a priority prosecution, but that person may not be there to prosecute.”

When proposing the background check bill, Graham cited the case of Alice Boland, who is accused of attempting to kill a school employee. She previously pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity for threatening to kill President George W. Bush.

- CNN Senior Producer Todd Sperry contributed to this report.

Filed under: Gabrielle Giffords • Gun control • Gun rights • Jeff Flake • Lindsey Graham • Mark Begich • NRA
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    emotions make good law.

    Progressives do not want to hurt the "feelings"
    of WHITE males under 30 with Schizophrenia by having
    them immediately reported to the federal gun check
    system upon diagnoses.

    Too extreme ! Too judgmental ! Privacy invaded !


    Since they are NOT reported; when a gun check is run;
    they check out just fine. The law has been followed.
    Government fails again... Children die.

    My step son after several stays in state mental hospitals
    and MONTHS (not days) (not weeks) after being diagnosed
    with Paranoid Schizophrenia
    was able to purchase a shotgun with NO problem whatsoever.

    To this day it is unclear whether he intended to use it on himself;
    or on my wife and I; or other un-armed citizens.

    He was NEVER REPORTED to the gun check system.
    So when during a full blown mental melt down; (off his meds)
    something NOT uncommon in people with Schizophrenia

    he checked out just fine;
    and could purchase whatever firearms he wanted just like anyone else.

    By the way it would have been just as easy for him to purchase
    "High Powered Military Style Assault Rifle with High Capacity Magazines."

    It took several more (weeks) of intense effort on My part;
    (NOT on the governments part) to get him red flagged
    in the gun check system; so this could NOT happen again.

    If I had NOT had the foresight to demand he sign medical information
    release forms as a condition of him returning to live with us after his third
    stay in the state mental hospital I would be S O L. So would YOU!!!

    The doctors and the government both gave me grief
    attempting to get him entered into the gun check system.

    Government will fail you 100% of the time
    most likely when you are the most vulnerable.

    March 7, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  2. John

    I just want to point out that the use of the term "gun show loophole" shows the bias present in this piece. There are NO EXEMPTIONS to existing background check laws for firearms sold at gun shows.

    March 7, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  3. askdavey

    retire, please just go away, niether paarty likes you and your obstr. of the curant adm.

    March 7, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  4. Tony in Maine

    But a whack job, felon, or any other conservative and race over to the gun show in the church basement and buy an AR-15 without even showing the same ID he'd need to buy a six pack of beer.

    Lindsey – just go away. You bother me.

    March 7, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  5. Babe

    The smokescreen of supporting a bill requiring “background checks" obfuscates the issue itself. How can you have a bill purporting to strengthen background checks if it does not close the gun show loophole? This is a travesty of reform. No wonder the NRA supports it. That should raise suspicions immediately. This is not reform, but a mockery of reform. Passing such a bill, the NRA would then say that the work is done when in fact, nothing, or close to nothing, has been done. The ever-sanctimonious Lindsay Graham should be ashamed of himself, if he were capable of such a thing.

    March 7, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  6. McShannon

    Sen. Lindsey Graham's bill doesn't solve anything, do any good or resemble a solution for the problem which is mostly buying and selling at gun shows that some citizens in America aren't aware exist. The NRA of course is happy with the bill because it doesn't change anything from the way it already is.

    March 7, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  7. MrBeenThere

    Way to go .......... only back what the NRA (4 Million) dictates to you to back............ not what the American people (300mil +) Demand you do........... Vote the the GOP out 2014............

    March 7, 2013 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  8. Gurgyl

    With NRA backing? Nonsense. Pass term-Limits. Till then no use.

    March 7, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    What is the problem with closing the gun show loophole? Items sold at a public "item" show, where people must lease space to sell their wares, are not private sales. They are public sales, subject to sales taxes and any other applicable laws. For example, when people go to car shows, all car sales are subject to all local and state laws. Why are guns excepted?

    March 7, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  10. Dern Foley

    Third paragraph:

    It does not address a second loophole in the background check requirements – the gun show loophole – which critics say provides an avenue for people who know they cannot pass a background check to buy firearms.

    March 7, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  11. Yanni

    Why a lobbyist organization is a factor on policy making as flawed as NRA? We are organized as a united state citizens and we pay tax and vote because we want a government by us. Why a lobbyist has to determine our fate? How about our vote?

    March 7, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
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