Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware; Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania; Marco Rubio, R-Florida; and Bill Nelson, D-Florida, announced new gun safety legislation that will assist states with enforcing existing laws against individuals who attempt to purchase firearms but have no legal right to do so.
The NICS Denial Notification Act requires federal authorities to alert state law enforcement within 24 hours when individuals “lie and try” to purchase firearms, which can be a warning sign of criminal behavior.
The legislation is also co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois; Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; and Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri.
Federal officials are notified when individuals who are legally prohibited from purchasing a firearm — such as convicted felons, fugitives and domestic abusers — try to buy a gun but fail a National Instant Criminal Background Check System background check. These attempted purchases often violate federal and state laws.
In the 13 states that run their own background checks using the FBI’s NICS system, state authorities are aware when prohibited persons fail background checks and can have state law enforcement investigate these cases. However, in the 37 states and the District of Columbia that rely on the FBI to run some or all of their background checks, state authorities generally are not aware when prohibited persons fail background checks run by the FBI. Individuals who are willing to “lie and try” to buy a gun may be dangerous and willing to obtain guns through other means. As a result, these states and D.C. lack critical law enforcement intelligence that they could use to try to keep their communities safe.
“We have to find ways to work across the aisle to reduce gun violence, and the NICS Denial Notification Act is one modest, common sense way to do that,” said Coons. “By ensuring that state and federal law enforcement are working together to prevent those who shouldn’t be able to buy a gun from getting one, we can make our communities safer. I’m hopeful this legislation can be part of Congress’s efforts to comprehensively address gun violence.”
The NICS Denial Notification Act:
— Requires federal authorities to alert state law enforcement of background checks denials, so that state authorities can decide whether to investigate, prosecute and/or keep an eye on these denied individuals for signs of future criminal activity.
— Requires the Department of Justice to publish an annual report with statistics about its prosecution of background check denial cases, so Congress and voters can hold federal officials accountable.