Bipartisan Bill Incentivizes States to Report of Domestic Violence to Federal Background Check Systems

November 8, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., and Mike Turner, R-Ohio, will create incentives for states to provide complete domestic violence records to federal background check databases.

Rep. Rice announced the filing of the bill at Bethany House in Baldwin, N.Y., where she was joined by Linda Beigel Schulman, whose son Scott was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida in 2018.

The Bethany House provides safe, supportive, emergency housing for women and their dependent children.

Also joining Rice for the launch of the bill were representatives from Long Island Against Domestic Violence, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Bethany House, and The Safe Center Long Island.

“We cannot ignore the lethal relationship between domestic violence and firearms,” Rep. Rice said. “Research has shown that victims of domestic violence are five times more likely to be killed if their partner owns a gun.”

“That’s why people convicted of certain domestic violence offenses are legally prohibited from buying a gun,” she said. “But all too often, those convicted of such an offense are still able to pass a background check and buy a gun because their records haven’t been reported. Our bipartisan bill would help fix that. It creates common-sense incentives for states to improve their reporting of domestic violence records so that we can enforce our laws, keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and save lives.”

Rep, Turner said he is proud to be the Republican lead on the bill. H.R. 4600, which he says takes “reasonable steps towards improving the way we report domestic violence, criminal history, and mental health cases to protect our citizens and save lives.”

 “We continue to hear the same story after each mass shooting: there were warning signs that the shooter should not have had access to a firearm. The mass shooter in Dayton passed a background check. We need to do more to prevent these tragedies,” he said.

H.R. 4600, also called the Domestic Violence Records Reporting Improvement Act, encourages states to improve domestic violence records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by making them eligible for NICS Act Record Improvement Program grants.

NARIP grants are available to states specifically to improve the reporting of criminal history, mental health, and protection order records to NICS for gun purchaser background checks. However, states are currently not eligible for these grants if they haven’t implemented a program that provides a way for people subject to the mental health disqualifiers to regain their gun eligibility. H.R. 4600 removes that legal barrier so that states that want to improve domestic violence reporting are not denied funding that can help them to do so.

H.R. 4600 has been endorsed by a broad coalition of gun violence and domestic violence prevention organizations including: Giffords, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Joyful Heart Foundation, Newtown Action Alliance, Survivors Lead, Vision Quilt, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Ohio Domestic Violence Network, Brady United Against Gun Violence, National Domestic Violence Hotline, Everytown for Gun Safety, March for Our Lives, and the Violence Policy Center.

“Each year, more than 600 women in America are shot and killed by an intimate partner. That’s one woman every 16 hours,” said Robin Lloyd, managing director of Giffords.This statistic should not only horrify us, it should motivate our elected leaders to do something about it. That’s why I’m grateful to Representatives Rice and Turner for introducing the Domestic Violence Records Reporting Improvement Act.

“It’s critical that we do everything in our power to ensure disqualifying records are put into the NICS system so domestic abusers cannot access guns, making violent situations even deadlier. This bill will help make it easier for states to ensure this happens, making women and families in every community safer,” Rice said.

“We are proud to support Representatives Rice and Turner’s bipartisan effort to reduce gun deaths in America with a bill that will help to keep guns away from domestic abusers,” said Po Murray, chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance. “American women are 25 times more likely to be killed by guns than women in other high-income countries and most mass shooting incidents in our nation are related to domestic violence. We encourage all Members of Congress to support and pass this life-saving legislation to prevent domestic abusers from killing their intimate partners with guns.”

Ruth Glenn, president and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, noted most intimate partner homicides are committed by abusers wielding firearms.

 “Abusers should not have access to guns – period,” Glenn said. “This important legislation builds on the Fix NICS Act by improving the submission of disqualifying protection orders and convictions into the firearms background check system. The mass shooting in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas illustrated the deadly consequences of the failure to submit these records. It was a preventable tragedy. The Domestic Violence Records Reporting Improvement Act will help prevent future intimate partner homicides and mass murder.”

The full text of H.R. 4600 is available here.

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