Gordon Witkin, in Sunday's New York Times, argues thoughtfully for the federal government to focus on improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, the FBI-maintained system used by gun stores to check the criminal histories of gun buyers. The system, launched in the 1990s, is better than it used to be, but it's still a mess, Witkin shows. As we show in American Gun, the main focus of NICS is on criminal history -- whether someone has been convicted of a felony. But most mass shooters haven't been convicted of a felony, even though many have manifested troubled, threatening behavior and have expressed their interest in hurting others. Revamping NICS would be good, but reducing mass shootings might require finding new ways to identify those most likely to commit such acts and limit their access to guns like the AR-15. Such solutions would be incredibly complicated and require the participation of both gun-control advocates and Second-Amendment advocates.
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