Annual Meeting 2011

ABA Calls for Expansion of NICS Database & Right for Would-Be Gun Owners to Challenge Listings

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In the first vote of the day, the ABA House of Delegates approved a resolution urging the expansion of the National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS) to “ensure its completeness and accuracy through all appropriate measures, so that all persons properly categorized as prohibited from firearm ownership under U.S. law are included in the system.”

“At its mark, this resolution calls on all government entities to ensure that the NICS system is as complete and accurate as possible,” said Gregory S. Smith, president of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia.

In his remarks to the House, Smith cited the death of John M. Roll, chief judge of the U.S. District Court of Arizona, who was killed in the same incident in which Rep. Gabby Gifford was shot by Jared Lee Loughner.

Loughner was able to purchase the gun used in the tragedy, although he was federally prohibited from owning a firearm, because the U.S. Army was not required to submit Loughner’s name to the database when he was rejected for military service, Smith said.

To that end, under Resolution 10A (PDF), the ABA “urges the United States Department of Justice to immediately rescind its memorandum that advises other federal agencies that they need not report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for inclusion in the NICS system, persons who fail voluntary drug tests, including applicants to the military who are rejected for military service because they have been deemed to be drug abusers.”

To provide balance, the resolution also called for the ABA, for the first time, to go on the record to support “the rights of persons who are listed in the NICS system to administratively challenge and seek judicial review of any such listing.”

Detractors of the proposal cited heavy burdens such expansion would place on the system. They also were concerned about people being placed on the list when they shouldn’t be.

Proponents countered that both those dangers can be, if necessary, more easily remedied than dealing with the aftermath of another shooting tragedy.

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