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Chairman Nadler Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement, as prepared, on the House floor in support of H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021:

"H.R. 1446, the 'Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021' is a critical bill to provide law enforcement the necessary time to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are not legally eligible to own them. 

"The 2015 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Charleston, S.C., which killed nine innocent people, stands as a tragic reminder of how current background check laws sometimes fall short. 

"Under current law, a licensed gun dealer conducting a background check on a prospective purchaser is permitted to sell the firearm to the purchaser if there has been no determination from the background check system, commonly called the NICS system, after three business days.

"This is the case even if the system has not indicated that the person has actually passed the background check.  Often, we refer to this as a 'default proceed' transaction.

"While 96 percent of background checks are processed within 3 business days, an analysis of FBI data showed that over 35,000 guns were transferred to prohibited purchasers between 2008 and 2017 because of the default proceed rule.

"On average, over the course of the last decade, 10 prohibited individuals have been able to purchase guns at licensed firearms dealers through the default proceed rule every single day.

"The cases in which there is a delay are the very cases that ought to be carefully investigated.
"If NICS is unable to return an instant determination—and especially if there is no report after three days—there is cause for concern.  There may be a good reason that these individuals should not own firearms, but the current system allows the transfer nonetheless.

"Under this legislation—as under current law—a sale may proceed immediately once a background check clears a purchaser, which is the case in the vast majority of instances.

"This bill provides, however, that for checks taking longer to complete, the FBI will have 10 business days for the initial background check investigation period.  If the check is not completed during this time, an individual may submit a petition for expedited review.  If a petition is submitted, unless NICS provides an answer in the next 10 business days, either clearing the transaction or stopping it, a gun dealer has the discretion to complete the sale and transfer the firearm.  

"We must ensure that firearms transfers are lawful, and in some instances that requires additional time.  That is why H.R. 1446 is needed—to prevent the sale of firearms to prohibited individuals by providing the FBI with additional time to complete background checks.

"H.R. 1446 is a sensible and necessary approach to closing a dangerous loophole, and I commend our colleague, Congressman Jim Clyburn, the distinguished Democratic Whip, for introducing this bipartisan bill.

"I strongly support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time."
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