Transcript: Sen. Mark Begich’s remarks on the NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013

Transcript of remarks by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Reporting Improvement Act of 2013 to prevent people who are deemed mentally ill from legally purchasing a gun. The press briefing was held on March 6, 2013:

…You know, I was pleased to help negotiate part of the bill to strengthen the background check system while protecting both gun and mental health rights.

Currently, the system as defined and detailed here has many holes in it. Dangerous people can fall through the cracks in part because the background check system lacks a clear definition of mentally incompetent.

By creating a clear definition, this bill will help individuals with dangerous mental health illness from buying guns.

Granted, this is only part of the solution to reducing gun violence but it’s an important step forward.

In addition, the bill would strengthen the rights for people with mental health illnesses. It provides a specific definition of mentally incompetent that only includes individuals involuntarily committed to treatment.

This bill also creates a clear pathway to recovery within the system that changes our outdated and offensive terms such as “mentally defective.”

When addressing the complicated issues of violence in our communities, we must neither stigmatize mental health nor abridge the Second Amendment rights. This bill is a step in the right direction.

I would like to thank the NRA as well as the National Council on Community Behavioral Health Care and the National Alliance on Mental Illness for their contributions to this effort. We work closely with both these groups in order to try to make sure we could have a bill that made sense and could be implemented.

So again, it’s just an honor to be here – a part of a bipartisan effort. And I want to echo what Sen. [Lindsey] Graham said. You know, here is a bill that has strong bipartisan support as you see here today from a varied member of the Senate.

Hopefully as we go on in this debate, this is one of those bills that could move forward and pass the Senate as well as the House and move on.

It’s clear that the language needs to be fixed. This is one way to do it and also creates some consistency in the law while at the same time protecting those who are experiencing mental illnesses.


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