Congressman James E. Clyburn

Proudly Serving the 6th District of South Carolina


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Charleston Loophole

Enacting common-sense gun control measures is a priority for President Biden and this Democratic Congress, and this legislation is a good first step. A large majority of Americans, including gun owners, support universal background checks. This legislation is needed to keep weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them and save lives.

The “Charleston Loophole” is the flaw in the background check system that enabled a gunman 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 2019, almost 3,000 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 over 75,000 guns into the hands of prohibited gun owners.

This legislation extends the initial background check review period from three to 10 days. 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. 1446 Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021.