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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: January 5, 2017 11:42 AM
From: Representative Jason Ortitay
To: All House members
Subject: Improving Firearm Background Checks and Criminal Records by Replacing the PA Instant Check System (PICS) with the National Instant Check System (NICS)
In the near future, I will introduce legislation (Prior HB 921) to eliminate the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), the firearm background check system used by the Pennsylvania State Police to conduct instant background checks on prospective firearm purchasers, and replace it with the National Instant Check System (NICS).

PICS was created as a result of the 1995 Special Session on Crime and duplicates NICS which is also utilized, in tandem with PICS, by Pennsylvania to conduct background checks.

The PICS system duplicates the background check which is already completed when a NICS check is conducted and as a result, has wasted well over 100 million dollars. Currently 36 states use NICS, successfully, to conduct firearms background checks on their behalf. Thirteen states, including Pennsylvania, duplicate the NICS process with an additional system of their own.

In addition to being unnecessary, PICS is also expensive. While it was envisioned to be fiscally self-sufficient at the time it went online in 1998, a 2011 report from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) found that two thirds of PICS's revenue comes from the General Fund to sustain its annual budget of over $6 million - 95% of which covers personnel costs. With the elimination of PICS, the revenues from the General Fund will be available to fund other programs throughout the Commonwealth. Switching from PICS to NICS was one of the options considered by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. Recent (2014) changes to the NICS system alleviate the concerns raised by the committee regarding the comprehensiveness of the NICS background check. Additionally, NICS has added the capacity to check for state prohibitors, i.e., those prohibitions based solely on state law. This was something previously lacking in the NICS system.

The handling of records domestic violence situations is also one area that would be improved due to the necessity to improve the transmission of relevant records of PFA’s to the NICS system to keep it updated, which Pennsylvania could be doing a better job of. https://www.justice.gov/ovw/blog/firearms-and-domestic-violence-intersections

Eliminating PICS will also streamline the administrative burdens faced by Federally Licensed Firearms (FFL) dealers surrounding the sale and purchase of firearms, while at the same time, increasing public safety. Eliminating PICS will also relieve citizens of having to pay a fee to exercise a Constitutional Right which the US Supreme Court rejected in Murdoch vs. PA.

Please join me in sponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as HB763