Cornyn talks Fix NICS at NRAAM 2018 (VIDEO)

The Republican senator from Texas fielded questions from reporters at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting last week about his role in shoring up the gun background check system.

Sen. John Cornyn, the chief legislative architect behind Fix NICS and Concealed Carry Reciprocity, showed up in Dallas on Friday for the group’s leadership forum, where he reflected on a November church shooting in Sutherland Springs and the congressional response it generated.

“What I wanted to try to do was something that would actually save lives,” he said of his proposal to encourage accurate and timely reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. “To me that was the most important thing we could do on a bipartisan basis.”

Fix NICS passed as part of a last-minute budget deal struck in March to keep the government operational through September. Cornyn sponsored the bill in November, two weeks after a former Airman gunned down 26 people during a midday church service in Sutherland Springs with a rifle his domestic assault convictions barred him from owning.

“The main reason the shooter was able to get guns is because he lied on a criminal background check and the Air Force had not yet uploaded the fact that he was a convicted felon, a convicted domestic abuser and had been detained for mental health crises, all three of which would have disqualified him from buying and possessing a firearm,” Cornyn said Friday. “But because the system was broken, it didn’t work and he was able to do it.”

Gun rights activists, however, criticized the senator for untethering the proposal from the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act and worried its broad language would ensnare millions of law-abiding citizens.

Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said in a December letter to members 95 percent of denied background checks are “false positives” and claimed Fix NICS would wrongly add thousands more federal beneficiaries with appointed guardians into the system, stripping them of their Second Amendment right without due process.

“What you may not know is that the second largest category of prohibited persons is fugitives from justice — and a good portion of these are Americans who have unpaid traffic tickets,” he said. “The dirty little secret of NICS is that hundreds of thousands of people in the database are law-abiding Americans who did nothing wrong, unless you count service to your country and/or speeding.”

Cornyn disagrees with the criticism. “I think there’s some misunderstanding,” he said. “But there’s no deniable due process.”

As for backing off concealed carry reciprocity, Cornyn said it was a matter of votes — not desire.

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to build the political consensus to get that done and in the end it’s the tyranny of the math,” he said. “We  did have the numbers on the Fix NICS part and not on concealed carry, at least not yet.”

Fix NICS drew a lot of praise from other corners of the gun rights community, including the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry’s largest trade group. NSSF named Cornyn its legislator of the year last month for his efforts to improve criminal records reporting to NICS, describing it as a “long-standing priority.”

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