WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) filed their bipartisan NICS Denial Notification Act as an amendment to the federal spending bill that is currently pending on the Senate floor. This legislation would provide states with critical information to help them enforce existing laws that prevent prohibited individuals from purchasing firearms. 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.”
“It’s a serious crime for a person who is prohibited from having a gun, such as a convicted felon, to lie about his background in an attempt to buy a gun. That is, in itself, a federal felony and it goes almost entirely unpunished now. It can also be a warning sign of future criminal behavior,” said Senator Toomey. “My amendment with Senator Coons will better enforce existing gun laws and strengthen public safety by requiring the FBI to notify state law enforcement within 24 hours if a prohibited person ‘lies and tries’ to buy a gun.”
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.