Washington – All five members of Connecticut’s U.S. House delegation joined dozens of other lawmakers – many of them, but not all, fellow Democrats – to ask for more money for the federal gun purchaser background check system.

“We fully understand the current constraints on the federal budget and appropriations process.  Keeping citizens safe, however, must be Congress’s top priority,” the lawmakers wrote to House appropriators. The background-check system “has been severely underfunded in years past, and the all-too-frequent tragedies across our nation unfortunately show that gun violence is still a very serious issue that plagues our country.

In his budget, President Obama asked for an increase in funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICs, to $73 million.

Licensed gun dealers are required to run the names of prospective buyers through NICs, which is run by the FBI.

The letter signed by 163 lawmakers, including Reps. John Larson, D-1st District; Joe Courtney, D-2nd District; Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District; Jim Himes, D-4th District; and Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, said the money would be used to ensure the NICs database is as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible.

Esty and other members of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force spearheaded the effort.

In January, President Obama used his executive authority to expand the definition of a gun dealer so that it includes some individuals who sell firearms at gun shows and the internet. The White House said the change was needed to eliminate ambiguity over who is “engaged in the business” of selling guns and required by law to run background checks.

Since more sales will require background checks as a result of the president’s executive order, the lawmakers said a funding increase for NICs is needed.

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Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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