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Quigley, Meehan Introduce Bipartisan NICS Denial Notification Act

Jan 5, 2016
Press Release
Strengthens partnerships between federal, state and local law enforcement to better enforce current gun laws

WASHINGTONToday, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05) and Patrick Meehan (PA-07) introduced the bipartisan NICS Denial Notification Act, which will help law enforcement better enforce current gun laws by establishing an alert system to notify state and local law enforcement when criminals break the law attempting to acquire a gun. The bill also calls for a federal study of background check denials, which will help develop a risk-assessment tool for law enforcement to use in identifying denied gun purchasers who pose a higher risk for future violence. The NICS Denial Notification Act is endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety and the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association.

“Our nation is facing an epidemic of gun violence. For many of the residents in my hometown of Chicago, gun violence is not just a headline – gun violence is an everyday reality,” said Rep. Quigley. “While no one grand solution exists to end all gun violence, we know that a combination of small but practical policy solutions can severely reduce it. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the NICS Denial Notification Act with my colleague Congressman Meehan, which will help to better enforce current gun laws and ensure that guns stay out of the wrong hands by sharing background check denials with state and local law enforcement.”

“Our background check system is an important line of defense when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. And when a felon or other prohibited person knowingly lies on a background check form, it’s not just a crime – it’s a signal to law enforcement that other crimes may be planned,” said Rep. Meehan. “As a federal prosecutor, my office took on the issue of gun violence extensively and we demonstrated that effective cooperation with local law enforcement can make a big difference in reducing gun crimes. This will help local and federal law enforcement work together to better enforce the laws on the books and I’m pleased to join Mr. Quigley to introduce it.”

The Brady Act prohibits felons, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill from buying a gun by mandating background checks for all gun sales at licensed firearm dealers through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Since the NICS background check system became operational in 1998, 58 percent of denials were due to the applicant having been convicted of a felony, and an additional 14 percent were due to the applicant having a domestic-violence misdemeanor conviction or a domestic-violence restraining order. Each of these attempted purchases is a violation of federal and state laws, but these so-called “lie and try” crimes are rarely prosecuted. While these crimes are often considered low priority to federal prosecutors, the acquisition of firearms by prohibited individuals poses a significant risk to public safety in many communities. State and local police and prosecutors have a greater interest in learning when prohibited individuals in their communities are attempting to buy guns, particularly felons and domestic abusers. By informing state and local police and prosecutors when such individuals have attempted to buy guns, which the NICS Denial Notification Act will do, they can decide whether to pursue criminal charges, initiate investigations, or keep an eye on these individuals for signs of future criminal activity.

"Representatives Quigley and Meehan have introduced a life-saving measure with The NICS Denial Notification Act. The bill, which requires federal officials to notify state law enforcement when a criminal who is legally prohibited from having a gun tries to purchase one, will enable law enforcement on the ground to stop dangerous people before they obtain guns illegally,” said Jonas Oransky, Counsel for Everytown for Gun Safety.

“On behalf of the largest metropolitan areas of our Nation, Chiefs of Police commend the sponsors of this needed legislation,” said J. Thomas Manger, President of Major Cities Chiefs Police Association. “Recent tragic events have taught us that the background check system for gun purchases must be strengthened so that dangerous persons who threaten our communities will no longer be permitted to buy firearms and prey upon the public we are sworn to protect.”

Evidence also shows lie-and-try criminals are at elevated risk of committing subsequent violent crime. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice found that people who fail background checks were 28 percent more likely to be arrested in the five years after denial than in the five years before it.

Often times when a prohibited individual fails a background check and is denied a gun, they then acquire a firearm at a gun show, over the internet or through classified ads where background checks are not required. Automatically notifying state and local law enforcement when a prohibited individual attempts to acquire a gun would help law enforcement intercept a dangerous person before they acquire a weapon and commit a violent crime. Current efforts in some states to investigate denied firearm background checks demonstrate how such arrests can save lives. In 2014, Virginia arrested more than 500 criminals who attempted to purchase weapons illegally. In 2013, failed background checks in Pennsylvania led to 620 investigations, 346 arrests and more than 200 convictions.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Quigley has called on Congress to stand up to the gun lobby in America. Most recently, he co-authored a bipartisan background check bill that expands the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales. He also introduced the Good Neighbor Gun Act, which would require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a voluntary code of conduct for licensed gun dealers and create a national “Good Neighbor” certification for gun dealers who abide by a certain set of requirements. His signature legislation, the TRACE Act, cracks down on the illegal gun market by improving gun tracking data and provides law enforcement the tools it needs to enforce current gun laws. Rep Quigley believes Chicago’s gun violence epidemic demands a federal response. He has led bills to increase funding to public safety and combat gun violence in the Chicago area, and is an original sponsor of the Buyback our Safety Act to bolster gun buyback initiatives.

Rep. Meehan has a long record of supporting bipartisan efforts that reduce gun violence while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans. He was a co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation authored by Sens. Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin that expanded background check requirements and included common-sense exemptions for transfers between friends and family members. Rep. Meehan worked with lawmakers of both parties to author legislation that stiffens penalties for so-called straw purchasers and takes on gun traffickers.