Backed by the National Rifle Association, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican leader is introducing legislation that would reward states for sending more information about residents with serious mental problems to the federal background check system for firearms purchasers.
The bill promoted Wednesday by Sen. John Cornyn, who has an A-plus rating from the NRA for his gun rights record, is far more modest than a Senate measure expanding background check requirements that the organization and Republicans helped defeat two years ago. Cornyn’s proposal also is narrower than a measure a top Senate Democrat announced this week.
Still, the legislation represents a rare effort by a leading Republican to curb some firearms purchases. The NRA, a leading force for decades against gun restrictions, has backed some bills before limiting the ability of mentally troubled people to buy firearms.
Recent shootings have drawn attention to weaknesses in the background check system. The gunman in last month’s killings in a Louisiana movie theater had mental problems that went unreported to the federal database.
“Gaps in existing law or inadequate resources prevent our communities from taking proactive steps to prevent them from becoming violent,” Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a written statement.
Jennifer Baker, spokeswoman for NRA legislative affairs, said the bill took “meaningful steps toward fixing the system and making our communities safer.”
By law, federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on firearms purchasers.