Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues in reintroducing gun safety legislation that will help states enforce existing laws against individuals who attempt to purchase firearms by lying on their background checks. The NICS Denial Notification Act would require federal authorities to alert state and local law enforcement within 24 hours when an ineligible individual tries to purchase a firearm and fails a background check, which can be a warning sign of future criminal behavior.
 
“When a convicted felon lies about his criminal record while attempting to purchase a gun, he is committing a new felony. This happens regularly in America, and is a crime that largely goes unprosecuted,” said Senator Toomey. “The NICS Denial Notification Act makes progress on gun safety while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and will help make our communities safer by better enforcing existing gun laws and responding to warning signs of criminal behavior.”
 
The bill was introduced by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).
 
“We have seen too many tragic instances where an individual who should not have been able to obtain a gun used a firearm to commit horrible acts of violence,” said Senator Coons. “Gun violence continues to plague our communities in Delaware and across the country, and the NICS Denial Notification Act is one commonsense step in the effort to prevent these terrible crimes. Ensuring that federal and state law enforcement work together to stop those who are prohibited from buying a gun from getting one will help make our neighborhoods safer. This is exactly the sort of bipartisan step Congress should be able to support.”
 
“After the tragic shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, I worked across the aisle to pass the FIX NICS Act, a critical piece of legislation to help close the gaps in the criminal background check system, but there is still work to be done,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation would ensure that when a prohibited person attempts to purchase a firearm, state and local law enforcement are alerted to further protect our communities.”
 
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 (NICS) background check. These attempted purchases often violate federal and state laws. Unfortunately, the federal government rarely prosecutes any of these individuals.
 
In the 13 states that run their own background checks, state authorities are already aware when prohibited persons fail a background check, and local law enforcement can then 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, local authorities generally are not aware when a person in their area fails a background check. Individuals who are willing to "lie and try" to buy a gun may be dangerous and more likely to obtain guns through other means. As a result, these states and D.C. lack crucial law enforcement intelligence that could be used to keep their communities safe.
 
The NICS Denial Notification Act would:
 
  • Require 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.
  • Require DOJ to publish an annual report with statistics about its prosecution of background check denial cases, so Congress and voters can hold federal officials accountable.
 
In addition to Senators Toomey, Coons, and Cornyn, this legislation is also being co-sponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).  
 
The bill text is available here.
 

###