Bill would ease gun info-sharing

As the nation's capital region reeled from sniper attacks, the House passed legislation to make it easier for states to share information with a federal database of people prohibited from owning guns.

The legislation was approved unanimously Oct. 15 as law enforcement officials continued their manhunt for the sniper who has terrorized the Washington, D.C., area.

The legislation requires states and federal agencies to provide the FBI with all relevant records to conduct a criminal background check.

The bill establishes a nationwide grant program to state law enforcement agencies and state courts to automate and transmit records to be included in the federal instant background check database. The bill would provide more than $1 billion during the next three years to help states get records into a database.

Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.), who represents the area in suburban Maryland that was the site of several of the shootings, said authorities don't know how the sniper got a high-powered gun.

But, she said, "Ten thousand people who shouldn't have, got guns because of incomplete records. We don't know if this depraved killer would be 10,001."

The bill now moves to the Senate, where supporters hope it will pass before Congress recesses in advance of the November election.

With the mood in Congress grim over the sniper attacks, lawmakers as diverse as Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who has been a leading foe of expanded gun control laws, and Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), a National Rifle Association board member, support the legislation.

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