H.R. 297 to get a boost?

I have written before (in February, and again in March) about H.R. 297, the NICS “Improvement” Act, authored by Carolyn McCarthy (the clever legislator from New York who wants to ban barrel shrouds, which she defines as “the shoulder thing that goes up . . . “), and have made no secret of my distaste for such legislation. We don’t need NICS “improved” (NICS Expansion Act would be a much more accurate title), we need it dismantled (do I hear any BIDS, anyone?).

In the wake of the atrocity on the campus of Virginia Tech, much attention is being given to the fact that Cho Seung-Hui’s mental health history was not made available to the FBI’s NICS database. Some will undoubtedly use Cho’s act of unspeakable evil to advance the argument for the requirement for more mental health data to be part of the firearm purchase requirements (“shall not be infringed,” indeed). It would, in fact, seem that some are already doing just that.

One might suspect that the group that bills itself as “the oldest and largest civil rights group,” and whose specific focus is Second Amendment rights, would fight such a bill tooth and nail. One would be wrong. The NRA actively supported the same legislation (H.R. 1415), introduced in the previous Congress. Nor does their position seem to have changed. In fact, just two days ago, an unidentified spokesman who sounds quite a lot like an NRA representative, claims that the gun rights lobby would “have no problem with” the inclusion of mental health data in the pre-purchase background check.

The gun lobby—typically opposed to any attempt to tighten federal gun controls—doesn’t disagree. The National Rifle Association has decided to make no public comment about any aspect of the Virginia Tech tragedy, according to a spokesman. But a source close to the gun lobby (who asked not to be identified because of the organization’s sensitivities about making any political points related to the tragedy), pointed out that pro-gun lobbyists and groups like the NRA have long supported adding all relevant mental-health records to background check databases. “We have no problem as long as one is adjudicated mentally incompetent [in denying gun purchases] and we have no problem with mental health records being part of the NICS,” the source said. “The problem is not with the gun community. The problem is with the medical community” that has traditionally opposed making such records available on privacy grounds.

War on Guns has more on that. I should probably also point out that H.R. 297’s first co-sponsor is Representative John Dingell, who once served on the NRA’s board of directors.

Actually, I just at this moment found this article in the Washington Post.

With the Virginia Tech shootings resurrecting calls for tighter gun controls, the National Rifle Association has begun negotiations with senior Democrats over legislation to bolster the national background-check system and potentially block gun purchases by the mentally ill.

Perhaps the NRA would like to explain to the tens of thousands of returning veterans with mental health issues why this is a good bill. With “friends” like these . . .

H.R. 297 has 7 co-sponsors, 3 of whom signed on this past week.

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