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Senator Collins Joins Bipartisan Group in Introducing Bill to Strengthen Background Check System

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins joined a bipartisan group in introducing the NICS Denial Notification Act, legislation that would help states enforce existing laws against individuals who attempt to purchase firearms but have no legal right to do so.  This bill would require federal authorities to alert state and local law enforcement within 24 hours when an ineligible individual lies on a background check and tries to purchase a firearm.


“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.”


Federal officials are notified when individuals—including convicted felons, fugitives, and domestic abusers—who are legally prohibited from purchasing a firearm 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.


Under current law, federal authorities are not required to notify state law enforcement when a prohibited person attempts to buy a gun.  The NICS Denial Notification Act ensures that state law enforcement receives notification when a prohibited person attempts to purchase a firearm.  It is critical to close this information gap since state law enforcement investigates and prosecutes most of the firearm denial cases in our justice system.


In the 13 states that utilize their own background check system, state authorities are already aware when a prohibited person fails a background check, and local law enforcement can then decide whether to investigate.  In the 37 states and the District of Columbia that rely on the NICS system to determine if someone is a legally prohibited from possessing a firearm, local authorities generally are not aware when an individual “lies and tries” to purchase a firearm.  As a result, these states and D.C. lack crucial law enforcement intelligence that could be used to keep their communities safe.


The bipartisan bill was introduced by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and—in addition to Senator Collins—was co-sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tom Carper (D-DE), James Lankford (R-OK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV).


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 and prosecute these denied individuals.

·         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.


This legislation 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, and Giffords.