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US House closes gun background check loophole

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Wednesday passed the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 [HR 2640 materials], which closes a loophole [JURIST report] that allowed Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho [Wikipedia profile] to purchase firearms despite a court order [text] mandating psychiatric treatment. The bill mandates improvements in state reporting to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) [FBI backgrounder], making record sharing automatic. It also allocates $250 million for states to make improvements, and imposes benchmarks for states to improve their systems. If states fail to meet those benchmarks, the legislation would withhold federal funds from the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 [42 USC 3756 text]. The bill must still be approved by the Senate and signed by the president before becoming law.

Previous legislation to improve enforcement of the NICS [HR 297 backgrounder], similar to Wednesday's bill, was introduced in the House of Representatives the past three terms but never became law. Wednesday's bill had the support of the National Rifle Association [advocacy website], who stress that they do not believe it is a form of gun control [NRA report], as it only enforces current federal law, and does not exclude any new parties from obtaining firearms. Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine closed the NICS reporting loophole [JURIST report] in that state by executive order [text; press release] in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings. AP has more.

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