Governor David A. Paterson and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy announced today that New York State will receive nearly $6 million in Federal funds to improve access to crucial information that will keep firearms out of the hands of individuals precluded from purchasing them under the Federal Brady Act.
New York received the grant – the largest awarded so far to five states that will receive funding – through the Federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Act Records Improvement Program. The grant will allow the State to enhance its efforts to create a system to capture electronically and transmit information from a variety of State agencies to the FBI that is currently collected, in many cases on paper, by a variety of State agencies. Congresswoman McCarthy was the prime sponsor of the legislation that made New York eligible for the funds.
This is the second time New York will receive the largest Federal grant made to a state through the NICS Improvement Program. Last fall, it received $937,414; only two other states (Nevada and Oregon) received funding.
"New York State is committed to working with the Federal government to make the Brady Bill as effective as possible, and I thank the United States Department of Justice for this grant," Governor Paterson said. "These additional funds will foster a more complete and efficient conduit that will assist the FBI in ensuring that individuals who attempt to purchase firearms in this State are suitable candidates for gun ownership. I want to thank Congresswoman McCarthy for sponsoring this legislation, and our entire congressional delegation for getting it passed in order to put us in such a favorable position."
Congresswoman McCarthy said: "These funds will be a big help for New York to continue as one of the leaders in improving our nation's firearm background check system. The funding will work towards ensuring that violent criminals and the mentally ill no longer slip through the cracks and gain access to dangerous weapons. Since coming to Congress fourteen years ago, I have dedicated my life to reducing the needless deaths from gun violence. There is still much needed work to be done to truly end the gun violence epidemic, but this crucial funding is a victory, and I will continue to lead this important fight in Congress."
Five State agencies – the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), Office of Mental Health (OMH), Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Department of Health (DOH) and Office of Court Administration – will share the grant. DCJS, which already has an electronic system in place to share criminal history information with the FBI, is spearheading the NICS improvement initiative.
Under the Brady Act, firearms dealers are required to notify the FBI whenever individuals seek to purchase handguns or rifles. The FBI then checks state and Federal records – via NICS – to determine whether the individual has a criminal record, conviction for a misdemeanor domestic violence-related crime, an active order of protection, has been involuntarily commitment to a mental institution or has been deemed incompetent by a court, any of which would preclude such individual from buying a firearm.
Firearms dealers typically receive a NICS response – an approval to sell, a denial or a request for more time to access additional information – within 10 minutes of making requests.
Currently, OMH compiles involuntary commitment records and sends that information to NICS periodically. The NICS improvement grants will allow the State to plan for the development of a system that, in conjunction with the DOH, will automate, maintain and share OMH records, as well as those detailing mental health adjudications by State courts and involuntary commitments made to facilities operated by the OPWDD.
The ultimate goal of the NICS improvement program is to ensure that all of New York's pertinent records will be readily accessible when an individual seeks to purchase a firearm, in the same manner as the State's criminal history data is currently available. The grant funds will be distributed as follows: DCJS, $2,310,350; Office of Court Administration, $1,741,608; OMH, $1,113,680; DOH, $726,350 and OPWDD, $102,600.