March 30, 20001
Mr. Brent Jones
Letters to the Editor
1000 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22229
The March 29, USA TODAY article on shortcomings in gun buyer instant background checks labors in vain to identify the cause of these problems. These problems are not specific to the National Instant Check System (NICS); the original Brady waiting period had similar issues.
In 1993, Congress directed the FBI to create NICS. Its mission to screen criminals instantly was supported by a $314 million appropriation and five years to upgrade state criminal records.
Over that time Congress requested several updates from then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Their inquiries went unanswered.
In March 2000, the General Accounting Office (GAO) audited the FBI`s implementation of NICS. The study revealed deficiencies that inevitably derailed NICS.
The failures are rudimentary; the FBI had no back-up system; instead of building a dedicated database with necessary information, they strung together existing databases (with irrelevant data). Also, this system failed to meet self imposed system security standards.
More perplexing was the Justice Department`s failure ensure that the funding was properly spent on the "instant check" database. Sources inside say that money was wasted on fingerprinting equipment. No one knows the truth as a systemic audit was never performed.
Again, what happened?
The answer is politics, Clinton style.
President Clinton wanted NICS to fail to fuel political support for waiting periods. NICS success would have granted victory to Clinton`s enemy, the National Rifle Association.
Today, eight years and $314 million later, NICS is inadequate. A new administration and Justice Department offers hope that an efficient "instant check" system will be developed delivering its promise - a promise supported by the NRA for 15 years.
Institute for Legislative Action, National Rifle Association