Carper Joins Coons, Cornyn to reintroduce bipartisan, bicameral gun safety legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined Senators Chris Coons (also D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) to reintroduce 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. The legislation is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). Companion legislation was introduced today in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.).

“Those caught lying on firearm background checks are more likely to be looking to harm others and have no business obtaining a dangerous weapon,” said Senator Carper. “We must be doing far more to make sure guns are not getting into the wrong hands and being used in the senseless shootings that have become far too common in this country. By codifying new coordination between the federal and state governments, this bipartisan legislation takes a common sense step towards preventing these senseless tragedies. I want to thank Senators Coons and Cornyn for their continued leadership on this front, and I hope the Senate can come together to advance this much-needed measure.”

“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.”

“Our nation has experienced far too many tragedies as a result of multi-systematic failures of communication,” said Senator Rubio. “The NICS Denial Notification Act would help ensure that federal and state authorities are successfully communicating with one another when it comes to dangerous individuals’ prohibited attempts to acquire firearms. This would be a strong step forward in preventing future tragedies. I urge my colleagues to immediately support this bipartisan legislation so that the President can swiftly sign it into law.” 

“In 37 states including Maine, state law enforcement is not alerted when prohibited individuals try to buy guns,” said Senator Collins.  “By requiring the federal government to notify states promptly when someone fails a background check, this commonsense, bipartisan bill would help stop dangerous people from obtaining guns illegally while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”

“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 the new crime 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.”

“We must take action to ensure Americans prohibited from purchasing firearms cannot skirt the law while still protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners like the vast majority of West Virginians. This legislation will help federal and state law enforcement work together to share information on background check denials to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. I’m proud to work with my bipartisan colleagues on this commonsense legislation that will keep communities safe and urge our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us in protecting Americans from preventable gun violence while maintaining our Second Amendment rights,” said Senator Manchin.

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.

The bill text is available here

The NICS Denial Notification Act is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, and Brady: United Against Gun Violence.

“Amid the recent surge in gun sales, twice as many prohibited purchasers lied about their records in illegal attempts to buy guns. When people with dangerous histories try to get armed, law enforcement should know that A.S.A.P., so they can stop warning signs from becoming tragedies.  We applaud Senators Coons and Toomey reaching across the aisle and introducing legislation to provide law enforcement with the information they need to stay ahead of criminals,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety.

“The MCCA is proud to endorse the NICS Denial Notification Act. The Association’s latest Violent Crime Survey indicated a nationwide rise in both homicides and aggravated assaults in 2020,” said Art Acevedo, Chief of the Houston Police Department and President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “This legislation will help address this scourge by promoting information sharing so local authorities can take appropriate action when an individual prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm attempts to acquire one. The MCCA encourages Congress to swiftly take up and pass this bipartisan, common-sense bill.”

“People who unlawfully try to purchase a firearm commit a Federal crime, but, in many instances, these individuals may not be known to State and local law enforcement agencies,” said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. “This legislation would require the U.S. Department of Justice to notify State law enforcement, potentially enabling State and local agencies to develop cases against these individuals, many of whom may be dangerous felons or domestic abusers.”

“The NICS system has many flaws, one being the lack of notification to local law enforcement when a denial occurs.  In many cases, the denial is due to an individual’s criminal record, which may be familiar to local law enforcement. That local law enforcement would benefit from knowing the individual is attempting to purchase a firearm. This bill would ensure that gap is closed and law enforcement can coordinate to stop prohibited persons from accessing weapons. We appreciate Senator Coons and Senator Toomey for leading on this important law enforcement issue,” said Larry Cosme, President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

“The purchase of a firearm is often a sign that a domestic abuser’s violence is escalating,” says Ruth M. Glenn, President and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “For the safety of the survivor, it is critical that local law enforcement be aware when an adjudicated abuser tries to purchase a firearm. Armed abusers pose a danger to survivors and their communities.”

“NDAA is excited to again support the NICS Denial Notification Act. This bipartisan legislation strengthens the relationship between Federal authorities and their State and local policing and prosecutor partners by mandating data sharing when an individual attempts to illegally purchase a firearm. This change in law provides our members and policing agencies with the tools necessary to keep the communities we serve safe,” said Nelson Bunn, Executive Director, National District Attorneys Association (NDAA).

“The Brady Background Check system is the foundation of our nation’s gun violence prevention laws, helping to keep firearms out of the hands of those who should not have them. This bill will create an additional layer of protection, ensuring that states and the federal government understand when prohibited purchasers attempt to acquire firearms, helping both to make informed decisions on how to continue preventing individuals who should not have a gun from acquiring one. Brady is grateful to Sen. Coons and Rep. Quigley for leading on this important issue and for introducing this bill,” said Kris Brown, President of Brady: United Against Gun Violence.