Senator Cornyn

Cornyn Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Bolster Background Check System

March 10, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) today introduced the NICS Denial Notification Act, bipartisan legislation that would help states enforce existing laws against individuals who attempt to purchase firearms but have no legal right to do so. This bill would require federal authorities to alert state and local law enforcement within 24 hours when an ineligible individual lies on a background check and tries to purchase a firearm. 

“After the tragic shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, I worked across the aisle to pass the FIX NICS Act, a critical piece of legislation to help close the gaps in the criminal background check system, but there is still work to be done,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would ensure that when a prohibited person attempts to purchase a firearm, state and local law enforcement are alerted to further protect our communities.”

Sen. Cornyn was joined by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) in re-introducing this legislation, which is cosponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), James Lankford (R-OK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV).


Federal officials are notified when individuals, including convicted felons, fugitives, and domestic abusers, who are legally prohibited from purchasing a firearm, try to buy a gun but fail a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background check. These attempted purchases often violate federal and state laws.

Under current law, however, federal authorities are not required to notify state law enforcement when a prohibited person attempts to buy a gun. The NICS Denial Notification Act ensures that state law enforcement receives notification when a prohibited person attempts to purchase a firearm. It is critical to close this information gap since state law enforcement investigates and prosecutes most of the firearm denial cases in our justice system.

In the 13 states that utilize their own background check system, state authorities are already aware when a prohibited person fails a background check, and local law enforcement can then decide whether to investigate. However, in the 37 states and the District of Columbia that rely on the NICS system to determine if someone is a legally prohibited from possessing a firearm, local authorities generally are not aware when an individual “lies and tries” to purchase a firearm. Individuals who are willing to “lie and try” to buy a firearm may be dangerous and more likely to obtain guns through other means. As a result, these states and D.C. lack crucial law enforcement intelligence that could be used to keep their communities safe.

The NICS Denial Notification Act would:

  • Require federal authorities to alert state law enforcement of background checks denials, so that state authorities can decide whether to investigate and prosecute these denied individuals.
  • Require DOJ to publish an annual report with statistics about its prosecution of background check denial cases, so Congress and voters can hold federal officials accountable.

This legislation is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Giffords.