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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's Gun Background Check Bill Added To Government Funding Measure

Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn joins fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Tribune CEO Evan Smith for the closing day of The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 24, 2017.

Legislation by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to strengthen the criminal gun background check system has been tacked onto a massive spending bill Congress is expected to consider this week in order to avoid another government shutdown, several news outlets reported Wednesday.

The legislation, known as the "Fix NICS" act, was co-authored by Cornyn and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut after the Sutherland Springs shooting in November that killed more than two dozen people. After the bill stalled in the upper chamber despite dozens of senators backing the legislation, Cornyn's office announced earlier this month — in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida — that he had enough support to push it forward without the possibility of a filibuster.  

The bill would hold government agencies accountable for failing to properly document individuals' criminal histories in the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System. As of Tuesday, Cornyn's office said, the legislation had 77 co-sponsors in the Senate. 

“The calls from the American people to address gun violence in our schools and communities have been deafening, and I’m grateful we’ll soon get that chance,” said Cornyn in a released statement late Tuesday. “Fixing the background check system will help save lives and reduce the likelihood of what occurred in Parkland and Sutherland Springs from happening again.”

The NICS database, which is handled by the FBI, landed on the public's radar last fall after a former U.S. Air Force airman opened fire at a rural Texas church, killing 26. The Air Force said after the shooting that it failed to report the gunman's history of domestic assault to the database — information that should have prevented him from buying a gun.

Cornyn's legislation would require federal agencies and states to come up with plans to ensure information is properly reported to the database. The bill, which would set aside resources to help those agencies do so, would also create a system of incentives and penalties for agencies who comply or fail to do so. 

Congress has until the end of day on Friday to pass a funding measure to keep the federal government running. 

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Cassandra Pollock is an engagement reporter for The Texas Tribune, which she joined in June 2017 after a stint as a fellow during the 85th Texas Legislature. She graduated in 2017 from The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Journalism. Cassi has previously reported for The Daily Texan, the university’s official student newspaper, and The Washington Examiner in Washington, D.C.