Colorado’s US House Democrats Press for Progress on Background Check Issue Related to 2019 Threat of Columbine Copycat

WASHINGTON – Congressman Jason Crow (CO-06) today led Colorado’s US House Democrats in pressing the Department of Justice to ensure states comply with background checks for those purchasing firearms out-of-state. This out of state background check issue was underscored during the 2019 incident when a Florida woman, who was reportedly obsessed with the Columbine High School tragedy, obtained a firearm from a Colorado Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL) despite federal law prohibiting the transfer of firearms to out-of-state individuals who do not meet their state requirements. The woman was ineligible to purchase the firearm due to Florida’s age restrictions.

This letter follows a prior effort by the lawmakers requesting that the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recommend how to mitigate risks associated with prohibited firearm sales to out-of-state purchasers and evaluate point of contact state compliance with firearms background checks. The OIG accomplished the first task and the FBI is in the process of implementing recommendations.

“Firearm background checks are critical to keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who are unauthorized to possess them, and we support the audit’s recommendation which will help ensure the eligibility of out-of-state firearm purchasers. We must continue to ensure that background checks are conducted with integrity, and to that end, we write to request more information regarding oversight of firearm transactions in Point of Contact states,” wrote the lawmakers.

“Consistent and comprehensive background checks are critical for public safety, and there must be accountability when background check standards are not met,” they continued. 

"Background checks for firearm purchases save lives. They are our first line of defense, helping prevent people who should not have guns from obtaining them and making communities safer. We are grateful to Congressman Crow and members of the Colorado delegation for their continued efforts to ensure that point of contact states properly apply federal and state denial criteria when conducting background checks,” said Adzi Vokhiwa, Federal Affairs Director at Giffords.

The OIG report, following the lawmakers’ previous letter, assessed compliance with firearms background checks and found that some states were not appropriately applying denial criteria to NICS background checks, but the report doesn’t divulge the nature of these errors or whether they were eventually remedied. Today’s letter asks the OIG to elaborate on errors they assessed and follow-on actions that were taken.

Shortly after the 2019 incident, Crow first introduced the Closing the Loophole on Interstate Firearm Sales (Colorado Loophole) Act, which will close the loophole that allows certain gun purchasers to immediately obtain rifles and shotguns when traveling out-of-state.

Read the full text of the latest letter here and below.

The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 4706
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Mr. Horowitz,     
                                                                                  
We thank you for completing a comprehensive audit of the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) following our July 2019 letter. Firearm background checks are critical to keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who are unauthorized to possess them, and we support the audit’s recommendation which will help ensure the eligibility of out-of-state firearm purchasers. We must continue to ensure that background checks are conducted with integrity, and to that end, we write to request more information regarding oversight of firearm transactions in Point of Contact (POC) states.

On April 17, 2019, Colorado schools and communities ground to a halt after an 18-year-old Florida woman who was reportedly obsessed with the Columbine High School tragedy obtained a firearm from a Colorado Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL). As you know, federal law prohibits the transfer of firearms to out-of-state individuals who do not meet their state requirements, and the woman was ineligible to purchase the firearm due to Florida’s age restrictions. Though the Colorado Bureau of Investigation conducted a background check through the NICS background check, the FFL didn’t independently assess the purchaser’s eligibility under Florida law. We agree with the audit’s recommendation that the FBI update the NICS background check system to verify age eligibility of out-of-state purchasers and hope it will be adopted without delay.

We are concerned, however, by the audit’s findings that three full and four partial POC states had failed to apply federal and state denial criteria in their NICS background checks at some point between 2011 and 2019. Consistent and comprehensive background checks are critical for public safety, and there must be accountability when background check standards are not met.  We respectfully request additional information on these incidents, including:
• Providing specific information on the omitted denial criteria;
• Whether the errors were caused by systems or human error;
• The frequency at which errors occurred in each state;
• Corrective actions taken by the FBI to ensure state compliance; and
• Whether POC states remedied the errors.

Thank you for your commitment to this investigation, and your time and consideration of this request.


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