Clyburn, King, and Cunningham Introduce Legislation to Close the Charleston Loophole

February 11, 2019
Press Release

Bi-Partisan Bill Creates Process for FBI to Complete Background Checks

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-6), Congressman Peter King (NY-2) and Congressman Joe Cunningham (SC-1) introduced the “Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019” in the 116th Congress. The bipartisan legislation will 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. 

This loophole in the background check system is the reason a gunman was able 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 2016, more than 4,000 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 60,000 guns into the hands of prohibited gun owners. 

This legislation extends the initial background check review period from three to 10 days. Next, 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. 

Click for the full bill text of H.R. 1112 Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019.

Majority Whip James Clyburn

“The real tragedy of the Emanuel Massacre is that it could have been prevented. We need to ensure that background checks are completed before weapons are sold. This legislation seeks to provide, with as much certainty as possible, that guns are not sold to those who ought not have them.”   

Congressman Peter King

“Very simply, Law Enforcement needs the tools and the time to ensure that those individuals who should not have guns do not get guns. I am proud to work with Congressman Clyburn to prevent another tragedy from happening.”

Congressman Joe Cunningham

“Background checks can save lives, and I’m proud to support a bill that ensures dangerous people don’t end up with deadly weapons when they shouldn’t be allowed to. This common sense bipartisan bill gives law enforcement the time necessary for them to do their job. The tragedy at Mother Emanuel should never have happened, and hopefully by promoting common sense steps like closing the Charleston loophole we can prevent it from ever happening again.”