WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators today unveiled legislation requiring federal authorities to notify state law enforcement officials when a person barred from purchasing a gun attempts to do so.
The NICS Denial Notification Act was introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). The senators argue that those who fail the background check and violate the law when trying to get a gun — such as convicted felons and domestic abusers — are rarely prosecuted.
Only 13 states currently run their own background checks using the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System system. The rest, including the District of Columbia, rely on the FBI to screen gun buyers, meaning they have to rely on federal reporting to know when someone prohibited from gun ownership pulls a “lie and try.”
Under the new legislation, the FBI would have 24 hours to notify state authorities. Coons calls the bill “one modest, commonsense way” for senators to work across the aisle on gun legislation.
“We can make progress on gun safety while respecting the Second Amendment rights of American citizens, including better enforcing existing gun laws and responding to warning signs that we get of criminal behavior,: said Toomey. “This bipartisan bill is a critical step forward in helping to ensure that our communities can be safe from criminals.”
The legislation comes with the endorsements of the Fraternal Order of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National District Attorneys Association, National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Everytown for Gun Safety.
It also requires the Justice Department to issue an annual report on how often they’re prosecuting background check cases.
“We must also ensure that federal and state authorities are successfully communicating with one another when it comes to dangerous individuals and their attempts to acquire firearms,” said Rubio.
Nelson said he hoped the legislation would be just one part of senators working “together on comprehensive gun reform.”