Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, released a statement Aug. 6 in support of bipartisan congressional action to improve gun safety laws.
“The only way to make necessary progress on improving the nation’s gun safety laws is through bipartisan action,” wrote the senators. “Strengthening our firearm background check system is an area where this is possible. In addition to expanding the scope of background checks, Congress should promptly pass the bipartisan NICS Denial Notification Act to ensure that state and local law enforcement are notified when someone prohibited from purchasing a gun attempts to do so.”
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.
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. 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 Washington, D.C., 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 Coons and Toomey, the NICS Denial Notification Act is also co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida; Doug Jones, D-Alabama; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois; David Perdue, R-Georgia; and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.
The NICS Denial Notification Act:
— Requires federal authorities to alert state law enforcement of background check 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; and
— 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.