WASHINGTON—Ahead of the five-year anniversary of the funeral service for the victims of the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass,), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation with 20 of their Senate colleagues to close a current loophole that allows gun sales to proceed if a background check is not completed after 72 hours, even if the gun buyer is not legally allowed to purchase a gun. The gap in existing law has allowed thousands of gun sales to prohibited buyers, including the sale of the firearm used by the shooter in the deadly attack at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church.
“You must pass a background check before you buy a gun—period,” said Murphy. “Five years ago this month, the Charleston shooter, who could not pass a background check, was able to walk into a store, purchase a gun and cause irreversible harm. That should have never happened. This is a common sense bill that gives law enforcement the time it needs to ensure a background check is completed before a gun leaves the store.”
“No check, no sale must be the rule,” said Blumenthal. “I first introduced this bill five years ago to close the glaring loophole that allowed the Charleston shooter to walk out of a store with a gun he was already legally ineligible to buy. My Republican colleagues in the Senate have unjustifiably stalled this commonsense legislation. In those five years, thousands more dangerous people with incomplete background checks have been able to purchase weapons. The Senate must pass the Background Check Completion Act now.”
“Our longstanding effort to fix this glaring loophole is more important than ever,” said Markey. “Local law enforcement agencies and courts across the country suddenly face staffing shortages and resource challenges that may prevent them from providing timely responses to background check requests. A drastic increase in gun sales in response to the coronavirus pandemic could overwhelm our system, and untold numbers of prohibited buyers may be able to get their hands on a firearm. We need to take action now.”
“No gun sales should occur without a background check. Period,” said Feinstein. “Our commonsense bill would close a loophole that allows guns to fall in the hands of dangerous people simply because a background check took longer than 72 hours to complete. It’s far past time for Republicans to join us in enacting basic gun safety measures that will help save lives.”
When a criminal background check indicates that a firearm purchaser may have a criminal record, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tries to determine whether the purchaser can legally buy a gun. If this process takes longer than 72 hours, gun dealers can complete the sale even though there is a heightened risk that the purchaser is legally disqualified from purchasing a gun.
The Background Check Completion Act would require a completed background check for every gun buyer who purchases a gun from a federally-licensed gun dealer. The full text of the legislation is available here.
The Background Check Completion Act is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Ben Cardin (D-MD).
“Too many lives are tragically lost at the hand of a gun on our streets, to suicide, and in mass shootings. The American people are demanding Congress act to end the bloodshed and senseless death,” said Menendez. “Strengthening background checks can save thousands of lives and that’s what the Background Check Completion Act would do. At a time when the firearm death rate is at an historic high, it is our responsibility to make communities safer and prevent tragedies and we must act now.”
“This is simple– a person should have to pass a background check before buying a gun,” said Harris. “As American lives continue to be cut short every day by gun violence, I urge my Republican colleagues in the Senate to put aside partisan politics and pass the Background Check Completion Act immediately.”
“If someone has not completed and passed a background check, they shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun, period” said Durbin. “Closing this loophole has overwhelming public support and will help keep guns out of the hands of those who are dangerous.”
“Our nation is plagued by gun violence and mass shootings, yet we allow thousands of people to buy a gun each year knowing they may not be legally able to own one,” said Hirono. “People should not be able to buy a gun with an incomplete background check—period. We need to close this loophole by passing the Background Check Completion Act, and stop future tragedies like Charleston.”
“We should recognize by now how crucial it is to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals. One step we can take is ensuring firearm buyers undergo comprehensive background checks,” said Reed. “This legislation is another important step in closing this dangerous loophole and preventing individuals who haven’t passed background checks from being able to access firearms.”
“There is overwhelming support in Wisconsin and across the country for comprehensive, completed background checks on gun sales,” said Baldwin. “Our legislation closes a loophole and will prevent the easy access of weapons for those that shouldn't have them. We have a moral responsibility in Congress to confront gun violence like the public health crisis that it is and this legislation will help save lives.”
“Virginia Tech, Charleston, and too many other tragedies have taught us the heartbreaking consequences that glitches in the background check system can have,” said Kaine. “It’s beyond comprehension that someone barred from owning a gun can purchase one simply because the background check isn’t completed in time. It’s time to end the Charleston loophole and ensure no check means no sale.”
“It is unacceptable and disgraceful that after five years, the Senate has yet to fix the loophole that allowed the Charleston shooter to obtain a gun without a completed background check,” said Gillibrand. “The American people support this commonsense law—it’s time for Senate Republicans to stop stalling and get this done.”
“It’s just common sense that if you can’t pass a background check, you shouldn’t be able to purchase a firearm—and the vast majority of Americans know it,” said Duckworth. “How many lives must be taken before Congress finally says, ‘enough is enough?’ In the wake of so many tragedies, it’s past time Congress acted to close this loophole and help keep weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.”
“If the background check is not complete, the sale should not be complete. The goal is to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t be able to buy them,” said Cardin. “Let’s close this loophole before more lives are lost.”
The legislation has been endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, Newtown Action Alliance, and Brady: United Against Gun Violence.
"In the five years since nine Black Americans were murdered by a white supremacist at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, an estimated 1.4 million potential gun sales have fallen through the exact same loophole that allowed the shooter to buy a firearm without a completed background check,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We applaud Senators Blumenthal, Murphy, Markey, and Feinstein for their tireless efforts to close the Charleston loophole, and urge the Senate to pass this long-overdue bill."
"We are proud to support Senator Blumenthal’s legislation to close the Charleston Loophole,” said Po Murray, Chairwoman, Newtown Action Alliance & Newtown Action Alliance Foundation. “No one should be able to purchase a firearm without passing a background check no matter how long it takes the FBI to complete it. Congress can and must do more to protect Americans from mass shootings, gun suicides, daily gun homicides, unintentional shootings and police violence. Closing any and all loopholes in the NICS background check system must be a priority followed by passing other critical gun safety policies to begin to dramatically reduce gun deaths and injuries in our nation."
“Last week marked five years since 9 parishioners were killed by an avowed white supremacist at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. It is well past time for Congress to address the Charleston Loophole, which facilitated that hate crime,” said Brady President Kris Brown. “Brady applauds Sens. Blumenthal, Murphy, Markey, and Feinstein for introducing this legislation and putting renewed pressure on the Senate Majority to emulate House leadership and act to keep our communities safe. From 2008 to 2018 alone, nearly 40,000 firearms were transferred to prohibited purchasers because of this loophole. Addressing this deadly loophole is not an inconvenience to prospective or existing gun owners. Over 90 percent of background checks are completed in minutes and 97 percent are completed in three days. Importantly, those few guns sold beyond the three-day threshold are eight times more likely to involve a prohibited purchaser -- a clear risk to public safety just as we saw play out 5 years ago in Charleston. Brady looks forward to working with the Senate to fix this deadly loophole in our background check system.”