House bill sets fee for NICS check, requires 3-year record keeping

Characterized as a measure to fund gun violence research and victim assistance, a proposal by House Democrats would see a fee charged for National Instant Criminal Background Checks.

The bill, HR 3987, was introduced by New York Democrat U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez without comment earlier this month. Titled the Protecting Americans from Gun Violence Act of 2017, it would assess gun buyers a $1 fee for NICS checks that, since their adoption in 1998, have been free.

As structured in Velazquez’s proposal, the first $10 million in fees collected every year would be earmarked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to carry out gun research.  Designated under the Public Health Service Act, the funds could then be distributed by CDC via grants to both public and private nonprofits and to individuals engaged in such research. The $10 million per year figure has long been a benchmark for Democrats on Capitol Hill seeking to put the nation’s health protection agency on a footing to study crime, suicide, and injuries involving guns as a health issue.

The next $5 million in fees garnered from gun buyers each year would go to help run NICS itself. Any funds over that amount would go to the Department of Justice’s Office for Victim Assistance.

Since going live through a mandate via the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, over 250 million NICS checks have been made. In 2016 alone, the 27 million checks completed included an estimated 15.8 million sales.

Moving past establishing fees for the service, Velazquez’s bill would require gun dealers to maintain a written or electronic record of the NICS transaction fee along with a timestamped receipt for at least three years in addition to current regulatory requirements on sales and transfer records under threat of a $2,500 civil penalty.

The measure would also require any privately-owned firearms lost or stolen be reported to local law enforcement within 48 hours, who themselves would have to relay the information to the FBI within seven days. Violations would be subject to as much as a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

The bill has nine co-sponsors, all Democrat, and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations

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