Press Release

March 4, 2021
Senators Introduce “No Check, No Sale” Bill To Close The Charleston Loophole
More than ten prohibited people a day are sold guns by dealers who do not wait for completed background check

WASHINGTON– Today, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) introduced legislation with twenty-four 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.

“If there is no background check, there should be no sale of a firearm. The goal is simple: keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t be able to buy them,” said Senator Cardin. “Let’s finally do what the American people support and require federal background checks for all gun sales before more lives are lost.”

“Gun violence has plagued too many families across Maryland and the country. Closing the Charleston loophole – which allows a gun sale to proceed even when a background check has not been completed – will save lives and keep weapons out of dangerous hands. I will keep fighting to enact meaningful gun reform to tackle this crisis and stop senseless violence. This legislation is an important step forward in getting this done,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Closing this glaring loophole six years ago would have stopped the Charleston shooter from walking out of a store with a gun he was already legally ineligible to buy,” Blumenthal said. “This arbitrary time limit has allowed thousands of dangerous people – people prohibited under current law from possessing a firearm – to buy a gun. If you haven’t passed a background check, you shouldn’t be able to purchase a weapon. No check, no gun. It’s really that simple.”

“Six years ago, a glaring loophole in our background checks system allowed a white supremacist to walk into a church in Charleston and murder nine Black congregants. It’s outrageous that a criminal could be able to buy a gun because his background check took longer than three days to process,” said Murphy. “And let’s be clear: this is not an isolated incident. Tens of thousands of dangerous individuals have gotten their hands on weapons because of the ‘Charleston loophole.’ We must act. We must pass the Background Check Completion Act.”

“An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that background checks should be required for all gun sales,” Durbin said. “We have seen the tragic consequences that can result when background checks are not completed and guns end up in the hands of prohibited purchasers.  It is long past time to fix this loophole, and I’m proud to support this bill to do so.”

“A background check should be completed before every gun sale, but that isn’t happening today,” Feinstein said. “The increased number of gun sales during the pandemic has put an even greater strain on an already overloaded background check system. Our commonsense bill would provide law enforcement enough time to complete a background check and ensure that people who shouldn’t have guns aren’t able to buy them.”

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 Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

The legislation has been endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, Brady, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Sandy Hook Promise and Newtown Action Alliance.

“Closing all loopholes in the federal background check process is critical to keeping our communities safe. Everyone needs to fully complete a background check before they can purchase a firearm. It’s as simple as that,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “After eight long years, we are grateful to finally see momentum on this common-sense gun reform.”

“No one should be able to purchase deadly weapons without a completed background check,” said Po Murray, Chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance. “We need Congress to act to keep guns away from dangerous individuals by closing all loopholes in our background check system. Incidents of armed intimidation are rising in our communities and domestic terrorists are the greatest threat to our nation. According to the FBI, the Charleston loophole allowed 2989 individuals to purchase guns without completed background checks in 2019. Last year, there were 21 million NICS background checks for gun sales– more than any other year. It is certain that this loophole allowed thousands of other dangerous prohibited purchasers to acquire weapons.”