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. Big Bird

    See, the NRA participated and agreed to a common sense approach to guns. They are the good guys!

    March 6, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  2. jayinatlanta

    A very good idea. But not addressing the enormous amount of weaponry sold outside the background check system is a non-starter. Whether the NRA supports it or not, background checks must be run on every gun sale in this country and the results must be stored indefinitely. The ATF has been castrated by legislators who are in the pocket of the NRA, and have to struggle to enforce the current laws thanks to the NRA's ruthless opposition. It's time to change all that.

    March 6, 2013 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  3. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    Very wise of Lyndsey (Whatt's in a name?) not to contracict his masters.

    March 6, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  4. ghostriter

    Almost there, Graham. Now, if you can just get those gun show loopholes cleared.....

    March 6, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  5. Christopher

    A good friend was one of the biggest (illegal) street dealers in CT and NY. He bought a lot of his guns from gun shows, but that wasn't his only option. He could go to Kentucky and purchase at a store since he could pass the background check. No permit, no registration. Sold the guns for 3 times what he paid for them.

    March 6, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  6. Banguns2013

    If we can get this and a national registry passed, we will be at a good place to combat the gun issue.

    March 6, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  7. Howard's Daddy

    When your own constituents overwhelmingly support universal background checks (all gun sales) and you pull this kind of stunt because of your fear of the NRA, you have no business being in Congress.

    March 6, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  8. MaryM

    Is it background check for ALL gun sales. Which btw, the majority of Americans support

    March 6, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  9. Bob

    It is NOT about the mentally ill; it is about how easy it is to buy guns for anybody.

    March 6, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  10. cbr

    There needs to be a background check on all persons who wish to buy a gun. Certainly the risk may be greater with people who have some mental health issues BUY the risk may be just as great with folks who have not show any mental health challenges. We all could snap from pressure or illness at any time. Let's just be fair and let's do the most we can to keep people safe. We just cannot continue to decide licensing issues willy nilly. If you own a gun, have a license for it.

    March 6, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  11. Evergreen

    Mentally ill people convicted on the federal level can't buy a gun unless they buy it at a gun show. OMG. So I guess the mentally ill convicted on the State level can still pass a background check and buy guns.

    March 6, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  12. Double B

    Lindsey Graham & Jeff FLAKE & Wayne La Pierre ...really?
    I feel so much more comfortable now with these hypocritical, lying, bloated ego bags looking out for me and my children with more meaningless rhetoric. Is this the best we can do? Shameful.

    March 6, 2013 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  13. Bea

    "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. "

    In other words ... it leaves a gaping hole for anyone to walk through. And I am sure THAT is the best the NRA can do.

    March 6, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  14. AqChicago

    No checks during Gun Show....why???? Because NRA says so..... what a bunch of cheapos!

    March 6, 2013 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  15. J.V.Hodgson

    If 40 % of guns are sold via non background check places Grahams idea addresses only 60 % of the problem.
    I say if we can license people to drive cars we can license guns and gun owners. and we should ban assault or asault type weapons and magazines of more than 10 rounds.

    March 6, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  16. Theo Pappas

    Those that can't even support elimination of the gun show loophole are PROSTITUTES receiving blood money from the NRA and gun manufacturers. I own 4 handguns, all obtained through checks.

    March 6, 2013 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  17. Thomas

    Sen. Lindsey Graham.
    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 is bought and payed for by special corporate interest " NRA".

    March 6, 2013 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  18. Dude in Colorado

    Improved background checks to weed out the mentaly unstable? Brilliant! Why didn't a Dem think of this?!

    Oh yeh, because if they had it would have been called fascism, socialism, a direct violation of our 2nd Amendment rights AND made the baby Jesus cry.

    March 7, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  19. jack johnson

    You noticed he only said federal court (nothing about state court systems). So if you are insane in texas court system you can still own a gun. If someone is found insane in Chicago and moves to Texas he can own a gun! Just require anyone selling or buying a gun to have to regester it. If seller dosen't fill out paperwork stateing who he sold it, and it's found at a crime siene he is charged with the crime!

    March 7, 2013 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  20. Cole

    Plug the 'Gun Show' loophole. Nobody needs an assault weapon, but if you want one it should be registered under the name of the owner. Shotguns and bolt action rifles no problem. Pistols need to be licenced to own and carry with required training.

    March 7, 2013 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  21. dh

    Finally a sensible gun law!

    March 7, 2013 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  22. Anonymous

    that's a waist of time people will find ways to get guns this world is thinking about itself not neighbors work on congress state by state everything needs to be the same

    March 7, 2013 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  23. smeegoan

    The 40% transfer number that is given is complete and utter lies. It's based off of a flawed 20 year old study by a group leaned twards an agenda. That number is probably more like 02%.


    March 7, 2013 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  24. Brian R

    So yesterday I called out Gross for repeating the false claim that 40% of firearms sales do not require background checks. I also gave reference to back that claim up...nothing in my posts were threatening or vulgar...what happened to them?

    Why are his unsubstantiated and false statements still in print and my paper trail to the facts missing?

    March 7, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  25. wgf

    Well it's nice to know that the NRA is against selling guns to the mentally ill.

    But wouldn't it be nice if they were against selling guns to the mentally ill all the time, and not just when the mentally ill are at a retail store ? Mentally ill people are still mentally ill when they're at a gun show.

    March 7, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
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