Schneider Introduces Bill To Address Deadly “Charleston Loophole” In National Firearm Background Check System

December 11, 2020
Press Release
“Default proceed” system that allows gun sales before background check an absurd loophole says Schneider

WASHINGTON— Today, Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) announced the introduction of the Default Proceed Sale Transparency Act to address the dangerous loophole that allows some gun sales to be completed without the results of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background check. Reps. Mike Quigley (IL-05), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), and Ted Deutch (FL-22) are original co-sponsors.


Under current law, federal firearm licensees (FFLs) may automatically go forward (“default proceed”) with the sale of a firearm if an FBI background check is not completed after three business days. Equally troubling, the FBI has no way of knowing if the sale was made unless they eventually complete the background check and then contact the dealer.


“It should concern all of us that hundreds of thousands of guns are sold annually before the results of a federal background check are returned. Americans are justifiably outraged our laws allow this absurd loophole,” said Brad Schneider. “While the gun lobby has stalled efforts to close this loophole, there are commonsense, incremental steps we can take today to ensure the default proceed sale process is safer and more transparent. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this impactful legislation. We in Congress have the ability to save lives if we find the courage to act.”


“The Default Proceed Sale Transparency Act will improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by ensuring background checks for gun purchases require a new layer of accountability and transparency. As law, this bill strengthens NICS and will help keep firearms out of the hands of prohibited individuals thereby protecting Americans from gun violence. Brady thanks Rep. Schneider for his leadership and for continuing to champion common-sense gun violence prevention policies that save lives,” said Kris Brown, President of Brady.


"The surge in gun sales has exacerbated the Charleston loophole, causing hundreds of thousands of background checks to take longer than 3 business days during the pandemic alone,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “We thank Rep. Schneider for stepping up to address this deadly gap in our background check system.”


“Delayed denials,” when a background check is denied after the three day waiting period, that result in a prohibited purchaser obtaining a firearm, have a deadly history. Despite a previous arrest, Dylann Roof was sold the handgun he used to kill nine churchgoers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston under such scenario because the FBI could not acquire his relevant court records within three business days.


H.R. 8929, the Default Proceed Sale Transparency Act, would change the “default proceed” process to make it more transparent and ensure we do everything possible to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals. The bill would:


  • require FFLs to report to the FBI when they sell a firearm to someone whose background check was not completed;
  • direct the FBI to prioritize completion of background checks for these default proceed sales;
  • prohibit the destruction of open NICS records which currently must be destroyed if a background check is not completed in 88 days; and
  • require the FBI to publicly report, on an annual basis, the number of default proceed sales that took place, including how many times an individual who should not have been able to purchase a firearm was able to do so and the number of firearms that were eventually retrieved from said individuals; and
  • require the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to publicly report, on an annual basis, the average time to retrieve firearms sold as a delayed denial, the number of firearms that were delayed denials retrieved in criminal investigations, and the number of firearms that were delayed denials retrieved in criminal investigations across state lines.


In 2018, at least 3,900 cases where a background check was denied after the three-day waiting period resulted in firearms sold to prohibited purchasers. And, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, there has been a 54% increase in background checks that have taken longer than the three-day waiting period between March and July of this past year as compared to the same time last year. This surge of firearm purchases has overwhelmed the NICS during the COVID-19 pandemic and it is particularly troublesome that we do not know how many firearms have been sold to individuals prohibited from owning a gun.


The National Rifle Association has called the “default proceed” sale loophole a “critical safety valve.”


Another troubling fact is the FBI is required to destroy background checks that are not completed within 88 days. In 2018, the FBI processed 8.2 million background checks, but it failed to complete more than 200,000 before having to destroy those records. It is unclear how many of these transactions enabled a prohibited purchaser to obtain a firearm.