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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

Vote Notes: H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act & H.R. 4477, the Fix NICS Act

Dec 8, 2017
Blog Post

There are few issues out there that generate as much political energy as guns do. On the one hand, I would argue the Second Amendment is the teeth behind every other right promised to us in the Bill of Rights. It’s something that I and many others feel strongly about when we talk about freedom and its sustainability. On the other hand, crazy people have been doing a lot of crazy things with guns of late, and it sickens all of us to see the way that guns are used in this instance.

That’s one thought.

The other thought is that everyone talks about finding common ground and compromise and getting things done in Washington...but you know what happens oftentimes when these things are done? It seems that everyone ends up frustrated.

Such, it seems to me, is the case with H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which was combined with H.R. 4477, the Fix NICS Act of 2017, a bill to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

In defining this in political terms, many on the left have long wanted better control of who gets a gun, so that crazy people - or many other categories of people who are currently not allowed to purchase a gun - don’t end up with one. H.R. 4477 attempts to do this.

From the right, people have long believed that the Second Amendment doesn’t stop at a state border. That if one has gone through the licensing requirements necessary for a concealed permit, they should not be made an outlaw in simply driving their vehicle across the state line.

This package that we voted on Wednesday combined these two concepts and, in essence, had something in the bill for both sides...which means there was something to dislike from both sides. I thought that there was more good than bad in the package and, accordingly, voted yes as this measure passed 231 to 198.

On one side, H.R. 4477 expands the overall process in which state and federal agencies report individuals into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Currently, when you go to buy a gun from a registered dealer, they must run your information through the national database, which subjects you to being processed by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Gun purchases and ownership are not allowed to those under indictment or those convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term of more than one year. Similarly, this moratorium extends to fugitives from justice, unlawful users of controlled substances, persons who have been adjudicated as a mental-defective, or those committed to a mental institution. The list goes on to include illegal aliens in the United States, those with a dishonorable discharge from the military, or those subject to a restraining order.

The purpose of the Fix NICS bill is to incentivize and/or punish agencies for reporting or not reporting proper information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System with precision and timeliness. Under the bill, states and agencies will receive financial incentives or federal grant preferences if they comply with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System requirements.

The other half of this bill, H.R. 38, covered concealed carry, and I was actually an original cosponsor of this bill. If a state doesn’t allow a person to conceal carry, then the reciprocity is not valid. Currently, 42 states already allow citizens with clean backgrounds to carry concealed firearms.

My sense is that the Senate will not move forward on the concealed carry component of this bill, but given all that’s swirling around with the tax bill and more, I’m not sure. Should the bill come back to the House, I’ll make a determination based on the degree to which I think it stays true to the Second Amendment and common sense reforms to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

In fairness, there have been inaccuracies and inefficiencies in the existing NICS system. This is highlighted by the fact that just last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation attempted to rescind 4,170 purchases based on the fact that 4,170 ineligible purchasers have been able to purchase guns. The bottomline is what I indicated earlier, which is that I believe that balance in the debate needs to be maintained...and I would define that in large measure based on the degree to which this bill moving forward continues to hold true to the promises of the Second Amendment.