Megan R. Wilson at The Hill reports:
The Justice Department is taking the first steps toward carrying out President Obama’s executive actions on gun control.
Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday released three proposals to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which was one of the 23 actions ordered by Obama last week to tackle gun violence.
The proposed regulations would give local law-enforcement agencies access to the gun-sale database that is maintained by the FBI. The rules would also preserve records of denied weapons sales indefinitely.
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act already requires federal background checks for gun purchases, but not every firearm sale is covered under the law.
Currently, law enforcement agencies cannot perform a NICS check when transferring, returning or selling weapons that have been confiscated, seized or recovered. The new rules would change that, allowing officials to perform a background check on people who receive those weapons to ensure that they are permitted to own a gun.
Obama ordered the rule change in a Jan. 16 memo that called for “rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.”
Holder is also proposing that the NICS hold on to records of denied weapon sales that are more than 10 years old. When the NICS was established, the Justice Department ordered that the records be moved to a storage facility after 10 years, which Holder says is no longer necessary.
“The FBI has therefore determined that for NICS’ own internal business operations, litigation and prosecution purposes, and proper administration of the system, NICS shall retain denied transaction records on site,” Holder wrote in a notice to be published in Monday’s Federal Register. “The retention of denied transaction information … will enhance the efficiency and operational capability of the NICS.”
The proposed rules would also give Native American tribes access to NICS. Currently, only federal, state, or local agencies can perform the checks, which leaves out “domestic dependent nations” recognized by the United States.
The Justice Department isn’t the only part of the administration that has been asked to take action in response to last month’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The president has also ordered the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to get involved.
One of Obama’s directives was to ensure coverage of mental health treatment in Medicaid and under the healthcare reform law. He also ordered increased training of school staff to help them recognize signs of mental illness.
The CDC, meanwhile, was directed to study the causes of gun violence. The president urged Congress to approve $10 million for the agency to examine whether there are links between shooting sprees and violent entertainment.
Comments on the Justice Department proposals are due by March 28.