WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of the five-year anniversary of the funeral service for the victims of the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today joined a group of Senate colleagues in introducing the Background Check Completion Act. This legislation would 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.

“Too many lives are tragically lost at the hand of a gun on our streets, to suicide, and in mass shootings. The American people are demanding Congress act to end the bloodshed and senseless death,” said Sen. Menendez. “Strengthening background checks can save thousands of lives and that’s what the Background Check Completion Act would do. At a time when the firearm death rate is at an historic high, it is our responsibility to make communities safer and prevent tragedies and we must act now.”

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 Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

Every day—in their homes and on their sidewalks, in their schools and supermarkets, in their places of worship and workplaces—Americans are killed or injured by gun violence. This is a distinctly American crisis, with the U.S. having nearly half of the estimated 857 million civilian-owned guns in the world, and a gun homicide rate that is 25 times higher and a gun suicide rate that is ten times higher than that of other comparable countries.

The Background Check Completion Act has been endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, Newtown Action Alliance, and Brady: United Against Gun Violence.

"In the five years since nine Black Americans were murdered by a white supremacist at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, an estimated 1.4 million potential gun sales have fallen through the exact same loophole that allowed the shooter to buy a firearm without a completed background check,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We urge the Senate to pass this long-overdue bill."

"We are proud to support Senator Blumenthal’s legislation to close the Charleston Loophole,” said Po Murray, Chairwoman, Newtown Action Alliance & Newtown Action Alliance Foundation. “No one should be able to purchase a firearm without passing a background check no matter how long it takes the FBI to complete it. Congress can and must do more to protect Americans from mass shootings, gun suicides, daily gun homicides, unintentional shootings and police violence. Closing any and all loopholes in the NICS background check system must be a priority followed by passing other critical gun safety policies to begin to dramatically reduce gun deaths and injuries in our nation."

“Last week marked five years since 9 parishioners were killed by an avowed white supremacist at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. It is well past time for Congress to address the Charleston Loophole, which facilitated that hate crime,” said Brady President Kris Brown. “From 2008 to 2018 alone, nearly 40,000 firearms were transferred to prohibited purchasers because of this loophole. Addressing this deadly loophole is not an inconvenience to prospective or existing gun owners. Over 90 percent of background checks are completed in minutes and 97 percent are completed in three days. Importantly, those few guns sold beyond the three-day threshold are eight times more likely to involve a prohibited purchaser -- a clear risk to public safety just as we saw play out 5 years ago in Charleston. Brady looks forward to working with the Senate to fix this deadly loophole in our background check system.”

Sen. Menendez has been leading the fight to pass commonsense legislation to end gun violence and save lives, and has cosponsored several measures to curve gun violence. Earlier this year, Sens. Menendez and Warren introduced of the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act, a comprehensive, bold bill that works to end the epidemic of gun violence in America which includes the Background Check Completion Act and other safety gun legislations.