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Attorney general orders review of gun background check records

by Pete Williams /
Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington on Sept. 5.Susan Walsh / AP file

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review of how well the national gun background check system is working, a response to the deadly shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Sessions said the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, better known as NICS, "is only as reliable and robust as the information that federal, state, local, and tribal government entities make available to it."

The Defense Department is conducting a review of its own practices after the Air Force discovered that it did not report the court-martial conviction of Devin Kelley, the church gunman. That failure allowed Kelley to buy the rifle he used in the Texas shooting.

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In a memo issued Wednesday, Sessions directed the FBI, which conducts the background checks, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which enforces federal gun laws, to review how well other federal agencies are doing in reporting information to the databases.

He also ordered another look at the federal form that gun buyers must fill out to buy guns. And he asked for a summary of how often federal prosecutions are brought for making false statements on the form.

The Air Force failure has also forged an unusual bipartisan move in Congress to shore up the gun background check system. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is sponsoring a bill that would give states more money to improve their reporting of background information to the FBI's databases.

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