WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) helped introduce legislation 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. This legislation is led by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
“There is overwhelming support in Wisconsin and across the country for comprehensive, completed background checks on gun sales,” said Senator 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.”
“No check, no sale must be the rule,” said Senator 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.”
“You must pass a background check before you buy a gun—period,” said Senator 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.”
“Our longstanding effort to fix this glaring loophole is more important than ever,” said Senator 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 Senator 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 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.”
The Background Check Completion Act is also co-sponsored by 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), 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).
An online version of this release is available here.