WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A pair of senators on opposite sides of the aisle are working together to better enforce a law that prevents convicted felons from buying weapons.
The NICS Denial Notification Act, introduced by Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, seeks to crack down on so-called “lie and try” firearm purchases by requiring federal authorities to alert state law enforcement when potential gun buyers fail a background check.
Toomey says federal officials currently get an alert but some states are out of the loop, and gun buyers who fail a background check are rarely prosecuted for their attempted illegal purchases.
Gun control advocates like Debbie Weir, senior managing director of Everytown for Gun Safety, say people are dodging the background check system.
“They’re prohibited from being able to purchase guns and they try anyway,” she said.
While doing so is a crime, felons who fail background checks are not going to jail due to a lack of communication between federal officials who conduct the checks and state authorities who can prosecute offenders, according to Weir.
“It’s very important to law enforcement so they can follow up on that,” she added. “Because if not, those same convicted abusers will go and try and get guns in other ways.”
In most states, while the store owner knows not to sell the gun, state officials never hear a crime was committed.
“That information has to be handed over to state law enforcement in the state in which the attempt was made,” Toomey explained.
Toomey says the NICS Denial Notification Act would require the FBI to do just that.
“[The bill] doesn’t require prosecution but it gives the attorney general of that state the discretion,” Toomey said.
The bill has bipartisan support but Toomey recognizes it will be a challenge to convince many of his fellow Republicans to support the measure.
“It’s not an infringement on anybody’s Second Amendment rights – so that’s my view strongly held as a big supporter of the Second Amendment,” he added.
Toomey also said it’s not unreasonable to require a three-minute background check before anyone is permitted to buy a firearm.