Cornyn introduces legislation to 'fix' gun background checks

With the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, Republican Senator John Cornyn from Texas is hoping to fix the existing background check system without expanding it.
   
It also features programs that promote preventative screening and crisis response training.
   
Some of those programs, Karen Ranus with the National Alliance on Mental Illness says we already have here in Austin.

"I think we definitely want to thank Senator Cornyn for his leadership and commitment.  Because for us this bill is really about keeping people who have serious mental illnesses out of jail and getting them access to the kinds of treatment and support that they need," Ranus said.

As for the gun portion of Cornyn's bill, it would increase grants by up to 5% for states that send the federal background check system at least 90% of their records on people with serious mental illnesses -- something the National Rifle Association agrees with and so does the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"It's really just an opportunity to say 'Can we work collaboratively together at the federal and state level to try and prevent future tragedies?'  That is something that NAMI feels comfortable with," Ranus said.

Steve Ou is a law enforcement officer and manager of a brand new store called "Guns Warehouse" in Cedar Park.
   
He says when he does background checks, the FBI doesn't give him any details on the person.  They just tell him to proceed, not to proceed or that there's a delay.  Mr. Ou likes the bill.

"I don't think there's anything bad about having more information to make that educated decision.  The FBI needs to make that decision on whether or not this person is legally able to purchase a firearm," Ou said.

On the other side, Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence says in part: "Everyone agrees that more should be done to treat mental illness.  But where Sen. Cornyn's bill falls short is exactly the reason the gun lobby supports it:  It does nothing to prevent dangerous people from purchasing guns online or at gun shows."

Ou says no one in the community wants to legally sell a firearm to someone and then that person goes out and commits a crime with it.  He's hoping this will help.

"My hope is that unnecessary gun violence does decrease.  I'm hoping this is one of many methods that will help decrease that," Ou said.

Here's Gross's full statement: "Everyone agrees that more should be done to treat mental illness. But where Sen. Cornyn's bill falls short is exactly the reason the gun lobby supports it: it does nothing to prevent dangerous people from purchasing guns online or at gun shows. The fact that Sen. Cornyn brags in his press release that his bill wouldn't expand Brady background checks to all gun sales while touting the endorsement by the gun lobby is more evidence of what's wrong in Washington: politicians are more concerned about the gun lobby's opinion than protecting the lives of the people who they were elected to serve."

You can read a PDF of Cornyn's full press release right here.

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