Policy

U.S. Needs More ‘Idiot Control,’ Not Gun Control, Kennedy Says

Louisiana senator pans bipartisan bill to strengthen background check system

Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy could be the lone opponent to a bill aimed at strengthening enforcement of national background check system policies. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. John Kennedy on Tuesday took a stand against bureaucratic incompetence in the name of the Second Amendment.

“I don’t think we need more gun control; I think we need more idiot control,” the Louisiana Republican told NOLA.com, blasting a new bipartisan gun control bill that appears to be aimed at preventing more of those so-called idiots from purchasing firearms.

The bill, by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, would dock federal agencies that fail to upload relevant disqualifying records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, and would grant more money to states that comply.

The legislation already has 17 Democratic co-sponsors, 17 Republican co-sponsors, and an independent co-sponsor, Sen. Angus King of Maine, and is expected to pass the chamber easily when it is put to a vote.

The bill was cast into the spotlight in November after an Air Force veteran, Devin Patrick Kelley, unloaded bullets on churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing more than two dozen.

The Air Force failed to report Kelley’s 2012 military court convictions for spousal and child abuse to civilian law enforcement authorities so the convictions could be uploaded to the NICS system.

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The conviction technically barred Kelly from legally owning a gun. Felony convictions, a dishonorable discharge from the military, mental illness, and illegal immigration status also preclude gun ownership.

But Kennedy will withhold his support for the bill. And he could be the only “no” vote, he said.

The senator maintains the problem of guns making their way into the hands of disqualified people does not derive from deficiencies in the NICS itself but from federal bureaucratic negligence uploading the proper information — which is what the bill he opposes appears to try to rectify.

“One of the problems around this place, I’ve found out after a year on Capitol Hill, is that nobody ever gets fired,” Kennedy said, criticizing government workers who neglect their duties to upload data to NICS.

“They already get an incentive for loading records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; it’s called a paycheck. If that’s not a good enough incentive, then they need to be fired. … We don’t need a law to try to get federal workers to do their jobs. We shouldn’t be asking government workers to ‘pretty please with sugar on top, can you do your job?’”

Kennedy said he supports the background check system but cannot throw his weight behind this particular bill.

“We look forward to reviewing any suggestions Senator Kennedy has for ways to strengthen the bill,” a Cornyn spokeswoman told NOLA.com.

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