The NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, Pub. L. 110-180 ("the NICS Improvement Act"), was signed into law on January 8, 2008. The NICS Improvement Act amends the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 ("the Brady Act") (Pub. L. 103-159), under which the Attorney General established NICS. The Brady Act requires Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to contact the NICS before transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person for information on whether the proposed transferee is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm under state or federal law.
The NICS Improvement Act was enacted in the wake of the April 2007 shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech. The Virginia Tech shooter was able to purchase firearms from an FFL because information about his prohibiting mental health history was not available to the NICS and the system was therefore unable to deny the transfer of the firearms used in the shootings. The NICS Improvement Act seeks to address the gap in information available to NICS about such prohibiting mental health adjudications and commitments and other prohibiting factors. Filling these information gaps will better enable the system to operate as intended to keep guns out of the hands of persons prohibited by federal or state law from receiving or possessing firearms. The automation of records will also reduce delays for law-abiding gun purchasers.
The Act authorized a grant program to assist states in providing certain information to the NICS, and prescribes grant penalties for non-compliance with the Act's record completeness goals. Additionally, pursuant to the Act, there are certain conditions, described below, that a state must satisfy in advance of receiving grants under the Act. In FY 2009, $10 million has been appropriated for this program.