Senators want alerts when gun buyers fail background checks

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A bipartisan group of U.S. senators want state law enforcement to be alerted when someone who isn’t allowed to buy a gun tries to purchase one.

U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Chris Coons on Monday said they will introduce a bill that requires federal authorities to notify states when a felon or a fugitive attempts to buy a firearm but fails the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Coons, a Delaware Democrat, said the legislation is a commonsense way to keep people trying to illegally buy guns on the radar of state law enforcement while ensuring Second Amendment rights.

“That’s the focus: Common ground, respecting the Second Amendment but making it more difficult for people who shouldn’t have firearms to obtain them,” Toomey said at a press conference in Philadelphia.

The senators said only 13 states run their own background checks using the federal system, making them better equipped to investigate people who illegally try to buy firearms. The remaining 37 states and the District of Columbia rely on the FBI to run the checks, the senators said, leaving them without “critical law enforcement intelligence that they could use to try to keep their communities safe.”

A bill to strengthen the background checks law, called “Fix NICS,” has gained bipartisan backing and support from the NRA. It’s unclear if the Toomey and Coons bill will be added to Fix NICS or other legislation.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber and the lead sponsor of Fix NICS, is a co-sponsor of the Coons-Toomey bill. The proposed legislation is one of a slew of gun bills Congress is considering in the wake of the Florida high school massacre that killed 17 people.

A spokeswoman for Cornyn declined to comment Monday on whether the Coons-Toomey proposal or any other legislation will be added to the Fix NICS measure.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said no gun-related legislation would be heard in the Senate this week.

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