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Denied & Dangerous

The Campaign to Enforce Existing Laws

When dangerous people who are prohibited from buying guns – like felons, domestic abusers and people with severe mental illness – try to buy a gun and fail a background check, that’s a red flag, and it’s also illegal. State background check systems should alert law enforcement that these “denied and dangerous” people are trying to buy a gun and walking free in their community.

Eighty-eight percent of Americans – including 88% of gun owners – agree that law enforcement should be notified when someone fails a background check to buy a gun. Everytown is working with state legislators and executives from both parties to give law enforcement the tools they need to investigate these dangerous people when they try to buy guns. Enforcing existing gun laws is critical for public safety, and we are making it happen.

What is Denied and Dangerous?

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  • States that are currently enforcing failed background check denials
  • States that have introduced legislation/executive action to enforce failed background check denials
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S 1369

California

This bill would direct the DOJ, when it determines that a person prohibited under California law has attempted to acquire a firearm, to notify the local law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the area where the person lives.

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Colorado

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) runs the background checks for gun sales in Colorado. When a person prohibited from possessing a firearm by federal or state law tries to buy a gun and fails a background check, CBI immediately alerts local law enforcement, who can try to intervene before the person illegally accesses a firearm and threatens the safety of Colorado communities.

It works. In 2012, nearly 250 prohibited purchasers were arrested by Colorado law enforcement after they tried to buy a gun and failed a background check.

SB 549

Illinois

Description: Current Illinois law requires the Department of State Police to notify local law enforcement agencies when prohibited individuals attempt to purchase firearms. Senate Bill 549 would strengthen its law by (1) requiring the Department of State police to notify probation officers and local prosecutors, in addition to local law enforcement agencies, when a dangerous person tries to access a firearm; (2) requiring agencies and prosecutors that receive notifications to report annually to the Department of Public Safety on the dispositions of any subsequent investigations; and (3) requiring the Department of Public Safety to publish annually the number of investigations, referrals, prosecutions, charges, and convictions of people who commit these “lie-and-try” crimes in Illinois.

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HB 1340 / SB 944

Maryland

In Maryland, it is a state crime for a person to lie about their prohibited status and try buy a gun. In 2014 there were over 1,300 background check denials and over 1,500 denials in 2013 in Maryland—including over 1,600 total denied sales to convicted felons. HB 1340/SB 944 would require the Maryland State Police to alert law enforcement and prosecutors each time a prohibited person fails a background check—ensuring that authorities have the tools to go after dangerous people before they get armed.

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HB 5647

Michigan

This bill would require that permit issuers notify federal, state, and local law enforcement, including prosecuting attorneys, when a prohibited person tries to get a handgun permit and fails a background check. This measure also requires the Michigan Department of State Police to publish an annual report on the effectiveness of the notification system. These provisions will protect Michigan communities by enabling law enforcement to intervene before dangerous people obtain guns illegally.

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L 1090

Nebraska

This bill would require that the Nebraska State Police notify federal, state, and local law enforcement, including county attorneys, when a prohibited person tries and fails to purchase a gun. L1090 also requires that the Nebraska State Police publish an annual report on the effectiveness of the notification system. This measure will protect Nebraska communities by enabling police to stop dangerous people who are trying to arm themselves before they obtain guns illegally.

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HB 4147

Oregon

It is illegal under Oregon law for a person who is prohibited from buying firearms to attempt to purchase a gun. Criminals who try to buy guns despite being prohibited are very dangerous; in fact 30 percent of them are arrested within five years of failing the gun background check. HB 4147, introduced last session, would have required Oregon State Police to alert local law enforcement each time a prohibited person tries and fails to purchase a gun, enabling police to stop dangerous people before they obtain guns illegally.

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HB 1181

Pennsylvania

Under current law, PSP opens an investigation file for every denied background check. Denials in Pennsylania led to 4,154 investigations, 782 arrests, and 367 convictions in 2014 alone. Since 1998, the police have arrested 1,818 denied person who were fugitives from the law.

House Bill 1181 would require the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to notify the state Attorney General when a convicted felon fails a background check. The Attorney General investigates the denial and publishes an annual report on the number of denials reported, prosecutions brought, and convictions obtained.

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VICTORY: HB 1964 / SB 1921

Tennessee

It is illegal in Tennessee for a person subject to a domestic abuse final order of protection to attempt to purchase a firearm. This legislation requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to alert local officials within one day when prohibited domestic abusers attempt to pass a background check and purchase a firearm. Reporting attempted illegal gun purchases to the appropriate local officials will help protect women and children by providing law enforcement with the ability to investigate abusers who are illegally trying to obtain guns.

The legislation was supported by Tennessee law enforcement, passed unanimously in the House, and received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate. It was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam on April 7, 2016.

Virginia

A unit of the Virginia State Police (VSP) runs the background checks for gun sales at Virginia dealers. VSP responds directly when someone fails a background check due to a mental illness or a domestic violence restraining order. When a fugitive tries to buy a gun and fails a check, VSP immediately alerts local law enforcement, who can try to get to the dealer in time to apprehend the fugitive. The results are impressive: since 1989, Virginia law enforcement have arrested nearly 15,000 criminals, fugitives, and other prohibited people who tried to buy guns illegally and were denied.

VICTORY: Executive Order by Governor Jay Inslee

Washington

In January 2016, Governor Inslee issued an executive order aimed at preventing gun-related violence. Among other measures, the order contained two actions that lay the groundwork for NICS Denials:

  1. The governor directed the attorney general to analyze current enforcement practices against unlawful attempts to purchase firearms by people who are prohibited from possessing them.
  2. The governor directed the Office of Financial Management to conduct an analysis to determine the benefits of information sharing among courts, law enforcement, and other entities to strengthen the background check system.
AB 961 / SB 758

Wisconsin

This bill would require that the Wisconsin Attorney General notify federal, state, and local law enforcement, including district attorneys, when a prohibited person tries and fails to purchase a gun. This measure also requires the Wisconsin Department of Justice to publish an annual report on the effectiveness of the notification system. These provisions will protect Wisconsin communities by enabling law enforcement to intervene before dangerous people obtain guns illegally.

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Tell California's Legislators:

Denied and Dangerous? Law Enforcement Needs to Know

Alerting local police and prosecutors when dangerous people illegally try to buy guns in our communities is common sense. Tell your lawmakers to pass this bill and keep us safe.

Tell Illinois's Legislators:

Denied and Dangerous? Law Enforcement Needs to Know

Alerting local police and prosecutors when dangerous people illegally try to buy guns in our communities is common sense. Tell your lawmakers to pass this bill and keep us safe.

Tell Maryland's Legislators:

Denied and Dangerous? Law Enforcement Needs to Know

Alerting local police and prosecutors when dangerous people illegally try to buy guns in our communities is common sense. Tell your lawmakers to pass this bill and keep us safe.

Tell Michigan's Legislators:

Denied and Dangerous? Law Enforcement Needs to Know

Alerting local police and prosecutors when dangerous people illegally try to buy guns in our communities is common sense. Tell your lawmakers to pass this bill and keep us safe.

Tell Nebraska's Legislators:

Denied and Dangerous? Law Enforcement Needs to Know

Alerting local police and prosecutors when dangerous people illegally try to buy guns in our communities is common sense. Tell your lawmakers to pass this bill and keep us safe.

Tell Oregon's Legislators:

Denied and Dangerous? Law Enforcement Needs to Know

Alerting local police and prosecutors when dangerous people illegally try to buy guns in our communities is common sense. Tell your lawmakers to pass this bill and keep us safe.

Tell Pennsylvania's Legislators:

Denied and Dangerous? Law Enforcement Needs to Know

Alerting local police and prosecutors when dangerous people illegally try to buy guns in our communities is common sense. Tell your lawmakers to pass this bill and keep us safe.

Tell Tennessee's Legislators:

Denied and Dangerous? Law Enforcement Needs to Know

Alerting local police and prosecutors when dangerous people illegally try to buy guns in our communities is common sense. Tell your lawmakers to pass this bill and keep us safe.

Tell Wisconsin's Legislators:

Denied and Dangerous? Law Enforcement Needs to Know

Alerting local police and prosecutors when dangerous people illegally try to buy guns in our communities is common sense. Tell your lawmakers to pass this bill and keep us safe.

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    Denied & Dangerous
    Denied & Dangerous

    How Background Checks Work

    How background checks keep guns away from dangerous people

    Under federal law, certain dangerous people — including fugitives, felons, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill — are prohibited from buying or having guns. To enforce this common sense public safety law, Congress created the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and required background checks for every gun sale by a licensed dealer–making sure that only law-abiding people are walking out of their store with a gun.

    The background check process is quick and easy. Prospective buyers fill out a background check form, which attests that they are not prohibited from possessing guns. Depending on the state, the dealer then either contacts the FBI or state officials, who run the name of the buyer through the NICS background check system. Depending on whether the records in the system indicate the person is prohibited from buying firearms, officials will tell the dealer to proceed with the sale, delay it while further analysis is completed, or deny it. It is a federal crime for a prohibited person to try to buy a gun by lying on the background check form. And in each of the 21 “Point of Contact” (POC) states, where state officials run the checks, it is a state crime for prohibited people to try to pass a background check and buy a gun.

    Background Checks Work, But Denials Are Rarely Prosecuted

    A large number of dangerous people try to buy guns from licensed dealers and fail background checks: since its creation in 1998, NICS has resolved over 90 percent of checks instantaneously and blocked more than 2.4 million gun purchases by prohibited buyers. But law enforcement and prosecutors rarely act to arrest and prosecute these prohibited persons — even though they have committed a crime and may be dangerous.

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    Denied & Dangerous

    Enforcing Denials Can Help Save Lives

    Denied Gun Purchasers are Especially Dangerous

    The tens of thousands of people who fail background checks each year represent a very real threat to public safety. The majority of people who try to buy guns and fail background checks are convicted felons—last year, felons tried to buy guns nearly 40,000 times, but were denied by the background check system. More than 17,000 gun sales to fugitives and nearly 9,000 gun sales to domestic abusers were blocked by the system. In Colorado alone, an average of one convicted murderer tried to buy a gun per month in 2014—and was denied by a background check.

    These would-be buyers are dangerous people looking for guns, and, even though they are rarely prosecuted for trying to illegally buy a gun, they are very likely to commit crimes again. A Department of Justice study found that 30 percent of people denied a gun sale because of a criminal conviction were re-arrested within five years, including nearly two-thirds of those aged 18-20 years old.

    Many of these “denied and dangerous” people try to buy guns again and are again stopped by background checks — but an unknowable number of them can avoid background checks and buy guns from unlicensed sellers. In 32 states, no background check is required for a gun sold by an unlicensed seller–so they can easily walk into a gun show or connect with a stranger online and buy a gun no background check required, no questions asked.

    One such man, John Shick, did just that. Shick had a long history of paranoid schizophrenia and had been committed to a psychiatric hospital by a judge, which barred him from buying or having guns. In early 2011, he disregarded the law and tried to buy a gun in Portland, Oregon, where the required background check flagged his mental health commitment and blocked the sale. But Shick walked away without law enforcement intervention, and four months later responded to a newspaper ad by an unlicensed seller in New Mexico that offered a pair of handguns for sale, no background check required.

    On March 8, 2012, he carried those guns into the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he shot six people, killing one of them, before responding police fatally shot him.

    Schick’s story is emblematic of how law enforcement officers currently respond to criminals who try to buy guns and fail background checks: hardly at all. Law enforcement should intercept dangerous people who try and fail to buy guns before they arm themselves through another channel.

    Read more about Everytown’s research on background check denial enforcement laws here.

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    Denied & Dangerous

    Where this Works

    In the 21 “Point of Contact” (POC) states, background checks for gun sales are run by in-state officials rather than the FBI. In each of these states, it is illegal for someone prohibited from having guns to lie about their status and try to buy a gun. This means that officials in the states can respond directly to people who try to buy firearms illegally, rather than relying on federal law enforcement and prosecutors who rarely follow through on these cases.

    Each of these states should have a law ensuring that local officials are alerted each time a prohibited person tries to buy a gun in their communities — so that they can intercept dangerous people on their streets before they get armed. State and local law enforcement can also commit to enforcing the law by arresting people who try to buy guns and turning them over to prosecutors.

    Some states have already taken necessary steps to pursue dangerous lawbreakers:

    Virginia

    The Virginia State Police (VSP) runs the background checks for gun sales at Virginia dealers. VSP responds directly when someone fails a background check due to a mental illness or a domestic violence restraining order. When a fugitive tries to buy a gun and fails a check, VSP immediately alerts local law enforcement, who can rush to the dealer to apprehend the fugitive. The results are impressive: since 1989, Virginia law enforcement have arrested nearly 15,000 criminals, fugitives, and other prohibited people who tried to buy guns illegally and were denied.

    Pennsylvania

    The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) runs the background checks for gun sales at Pennsylvania dealers. PSP creates a state investigation file for every denied sale — and in some cases they also alert local police, who can investigate the case as well. In 2014, this coordinated effort led to 4,154 investigations, which resulted in 782 arrests and 367 convictions. Since 1998, Pennsylvania State Police have used this process to apprehend at least 1,818 fugitives.

    Colorado

    The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) runs the background checks for gun sales in Colorado. When a person prohibited from possessing a firearm by federal or state law tries to buy a gun and fails a background check, CBI alerts local law enforcement, who can try to intervene before the person illegally accesses a firearm and threatens the safety of Colorado communities. It works. In 2012, nearly 250 prohibited purchasers were arrested by Colorado law enforcement after they tried to buy a gun and failed a background check.

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    Denied & Dangerous