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Majority Whip Clyburn, Chairman Nadler Reintroduce the Enhanced Background Checks Act to Close the Charleston Loophole

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-6) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), reintroduced the “Enhanced Background Checks Act” in the 117th Congress. This legislation would close the so-called “Charleston Loophole” that currently allows the sale of a firearm to proceed if a background check is not completed within three days. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week. 

“Enacting common-sense gun control measures is a priority for President Biden and this Democratic Congress, and this legislation is a good first step,” Whip Clyburn said. “A large majority of Americans, including gun owners, support universal background checks. This legislation is needed to keep weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them and save lives.”

The “Charleston Loophole” is the flaw in the background check system that enabled a gunman to obtain the weapon used to murder nine people and wound three others as they participated in a Bible study at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015. Had the FBI background check been completed, the perpetrator of the Emanuel massacre would have been barred from purchasing a firearm. In 2019, almost 3,000 guns were sold to people with criminal records, mental illnesses and other circumstances which disqualify them from purchasing a firearm due to the inability to complete background checks within three days.  Since 1998, the “Charleston Loophole” has put over 75,000 guns into the hands of prohibited gun owners.

This legislation extends the initial background check review period from three to 10 days. After that initial 10 business day period, if a background check is not completed, a purchaser may request an escalated review to spur the FBI to complete its investigation.

The bill includes an important protection for law-abiding gun purchasers, that if the escalated review is not completed within the required 10 days, the sale may proceed. This compromise will ensure that background checks for potential firearms purchasers are completed before sales proceed while also protecting the rights of law-abiding gun purchasers to purchase weapons in a timely manner.

“I am proud to support the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, much-needed legislation to address the dangerous loophole in our current system that allows a licensed gun dealer to transfer a firearm to a purchaser in some instances in which a background check has not yet been completed,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler. “I applaud Whip Clyburn for his leadership in introducing this bill, responding to circumstances that contributed to the tragic 2015 hate crime murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This legislation is an important step Congress must take to address the epidemic of gun violence in this country, and it should be passed by the House and Senate and sent to the President for signature without delay.”

The bill has 60 co-sponsors in the House and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is introducing companion legislation in the Senate. 

Click for the full bill text of H.R. 1446 Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021.
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