Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons Target Loopholes in Gun Laws

Two local senators from opposite sides of the political aisle came together in Philadelphia Monday to close loopholes in existing gun legislation.

The new bill would require federal authorities to alert state authorities if someone who does not have the legal right to own a firearm attempts to purchase one.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Delaware Democrat Sen. Chris Coons, would impact convicted felons, suspected terrorists and others deemed ineligible.

“[We] are working together to demonstrate that you actually can make progress, can find common ground, and do something to enhance the safety and security of the people we represent,” Toomey said.

Coons and Toomey unveiled the bill several weeks after the deadliest high shooting in U.S. history claimed the lives of 17 people in Parkland, Florida.

“We have to find ways to work across the aisle to reduce gun violence,” Coons added. “By ensuring that state and federal law enforcement are working together to prevent those who shouldn’t be able to buy a gun from getting one, we can make our communities safer.”

Currently, only 13 states, including Pennsylvania, run their own background checks using the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The remaining states, including Delaware and Washington, D.C., rely on federal officials to run some or all of its background check.

As a result, state authorities are not always aware when someone fails an FBI background check.

This proposed law would fix that loophole by requiring the FBI to notify state law enforcement within 24 hours when a person who is prohibited from owning a gun attempts to acquire one.

“The Parkland shooter was able to carry out this horrific attack because of multi-systematic failures,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is also co-sponsoring the legislation, said.

“While we work to ensure that our background check system contains the critical information necessary to be able to conduct an effective background check, we must also ensure that federal and state authorities are successfully communicating with one another.”

A bill to strengthen the background checks law, called "Fix NICS," has gained bipartisan backing and support from the NRA. It's unclear if the Toomey and Coons bill will be added to Fix NICS or other legislation.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber and the lead sponsor of Fix NICS, is a co-sponsor of the Coons-Toomey bill. The proposed legislation is one of a slew of gun bills Congress is considering in the wake of the Florida high school massacre that killed 17 people.

A spokeswoman for Cornyn declined to comment Monday on whether the Coons-Toomey proposal or any other legislation will be added to the Fix NICS measure.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said no gun-related legislation would be heard in the Senate this week.

A third bill was introduced last fall in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Pennsylvania Republicans Rep. Pat Meehan and Rep. Ryan Costello. It is currently sitting in House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

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