There is reason for concern that the US Congress and the National Rifle Association may soon work together to use the Washington, DC Navy Yard killings earlier this week as an excuse to expand a US government database of all Americans’ private medical information.
The day after the Navy Yard killings, US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was talking about bringing expanded gun transfer background checks to a vote in the Senate. Bloomberg reports:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he’ll schedule another vote to expand firearms background checks “as quickly as we can” when enough members support the bill. Reid said at the moment, the Senate lacks enough votes to pass the legislation.
The Bloomberg article then proceeds to discount the possibility of such legislation advancing, saying gun control legislation failed to pass in the Senate earlier this year and quoting one gun control writer who absolutely rejects the possibility:
“The chance of any movement on this issue now is zero,” said Robert Spitzer, author of four books on the history of gun control. “That wind blew itself out politically.”
But, an alternative, secret plan appears to be in the works. Roll Call reports:
The Nevada Democrat [Reid] said he might be willing to move a mental-illness gun bill without a background check expansion, but that comment was quickly walked back by an aide who sent around guidance that Reid does not, in fact, intend to pass a mental-illness gun bill without expanded background checks.
Reid’s public comments seem to have gotten ahead of the public relations plan for a mental health database focused bill.
Reid will likely find it a much easier path pursuing gun control legislation focused on mental health instead of a broad gun control expansion such as was considered during the abandoned floor debate on the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act (S.649) in April.
A starting point may be the NICS Reporting Improvements Act (S.480), which was introduced in March by four Republican and Democrat senators — Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), and Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas). As these four senators make clear in their press release announcing the introduction of the legislation, the legislation is intended to prevent more people from being able to posses guns by expanding the mental health database used in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
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