Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) are renewing their bipartisan push to strengthen gun safety laws.

The NICS Denial Notification Act provides states with critical information to help them enforce existing laws against individuals who attempt to purchase firearms but have no legal right to do so. Under this measure, federal authorities would now be required to alert state law enforcement within 24 hours when individuals “lie and try” to purchase firearms, which can be a warning sign of additional criminal behavior.

“We have seen too many tragic instances when an individual who should not have been able to obtain a gun used one to commit horrible crimes,” said Senator Coons. “The American people have called on Congress to act, and the NICS Denial Notification Act is one commonsense step we should take. By ensuring that federal and state law enforcement can work together to prevent those who shouldn’t be able to buy a gun from getting one, we can make our communities safer. This is exactly the sort of bipartisan step Congress should be able to support.”

“When a convicted felon lies about his conviction in an attempt to purchase a gun, he is committing a new felony. This happens regularly in America,” said Senator Toomey. “Unfortunately, these crimes largely go unprosecuted. We can make progress on gun safety while respecting the Second Amendment rights of American citizens. This bipartisan bill will help to make our communities safer from criminals by better enforcing existing gun laws and responding to warning signs of criminal behavior.”

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 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.

In addition to Senators Toomey and Coons, the NICS Denial Notification Act is also co-sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.).

About 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 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.
  • Endorsed by: Fraternal Order of Police; Major Cities Chiefs Police Association; Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association; National District Attorneys Association; Firearms Owners Against Crime; National Domestic Violence Hotline; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Everytown for Gun Safety; Giffords