Press Releases

Washington, DC – The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved an amendment introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by requiring that anyone found to be not guilty by reason of insanity or incompetent to stand trial will be reported to the database. 

Senator Feinstein’s amendment closes a loophole in the NICS Improvement Act.  The NICS Improvement Act was introduced in the House by Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) and seeks to improve the reporting of disqualifying information to the federal NICS database.

Under the bill as originally proposed, a federal department or agency would have been unable to report to NICS a person found to be not guilty by reason of insanity or incompetent to stand trial, if the court did not also make a specific finding that the person was a danger to himself or others or that the person lacked mental capacity to manage his own affairs.

 “We all expect that anyone found to be criminally insane or incompetent to stand trial would be prevented from purchasing a firearm.  Unfortunately, that was not the case in this bill as originally presented,” Senator Feinstein said.  “This is just one small fix in a larger bill introduced by Representative McCarthy that will greatly improve our background check system.” 

“In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, where better reporting of mental health problems to the NICS system could have prevented Seung-Hui Cho from purchasing his weapon, we must tighten the rules to ensure that people who are mentally disqualified from owning a gun are entered in the national background check system.”

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is a point of sale system used to determine if a customer is prohibited from buying a firearm under the Gun Control Act of 1968.  

Senator Feinstein’s amendment requires federal departments and agencies to report any ruling of insanity in a criminal case, or incompetence to stand trial or not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The amendment is supported by the Brady Campaign, the Coalition to Stop Gun violence, the Violence Policy Center, and the Legal Community Against Violence.