July 23, 2019

Representative Neguse Leads Bipartisan Inquiry Letter Requesting Answers From FBI Regarding Recent Colorado Incident & Point of Contact System

Representative Neguse, along with several members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, seeks information from the FBI as to how a Floridian woman was able to pass a background check and shut down schools on front range on April 17, 2019

Washington D.C. — Representative Joe Neguse, Representative for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, along with Representatives Diana DeGette (CO-01), Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), Jason Crow (CO-06) and Scott Tipton (CO-03) sent a letter to the Department of Justice Inspector General requesting an investigation of the FBI’s audit on Colorado’s “point of contact” (POC) background check system.  Neguse serves on the House Judiciary Committee, which provides oversight of the Department of Justice, including the FBI and the DOJ Inspector General.

Colorado, like several other states, serves as a state POC and conducts background checks using state and federal records and databases. While use of state records in addition to federal records should, in theory, make a state POC check more thorough than a federal FBI check, recent studies show that a larger number of individuals failed a federal background check than state POC background checks. A 2018 Government Accountability Office report found there were approximately 112,000 denials on approximately 8.6 million FBI background checks in fiscal year 2017, but only approximately 69,000 denials on approximately 17 million POC background checks. While the FBI conducts POC audits where there is a legitimate need to evaluate whether POC states are properly complying with the regulatory requirements, these audits are not currently published.

“Given the April incident in Colorado and the difference in denial rates between POC and FBI background checks, this lack of accountability is concerning,” states the letter from Neguse, DeGette, Perlmutter, Crow and Tipton.

On April 17, 2019, schools across Colorado’s Front Range were closed due to the threat of an 18-year old woman who had purchased a shotgun in Colorado after flying from her home state of Florida. The Colorado gun shop that sold the woman the shotgun stated that she passed the required criminal background check, but a review of federal law shows the transaction should not have been allowed to take place.

“The incident that allowed a Florida woman to wrongly pass a background check after arriving in Colorado, and led to schools across the region shutting down, is deeply frightening,” said Representative Joe Neguse. “We must ensure that our state’s background checks are as effective as they can be and that the proper steps are being taken to stop this from happening again.” 

“We have to do more to protect our communities and to keep these deadly weapons out of the hands of those who are looking to do us harm,” said Representative Diana DeGette.

“A background check is one of the most important tools for identifying whether an individual should be able to obtain a firearm.” said Representative Ed Perlmutter. “There needs to be greater transparency and accountability to ensure state-administered background checks are consistent and thorough. This is one of many things we can do to protect our communities and ensure firearms don’t end up in the hands of dangerous people.”

“The incident in April rattled communities across Colorado. The young woman never should have been able to walk away with a firearm. I was proud to introduce the Colorado Loophole Act this spring to remove that ambiguity in federal law and ensure that we treat shotguns and rifles the same way we treat handguns,” said Representative Jason Crow. “We must take an all-of-the-above approach to make sure this never happens again. We owe it to Colorado to get to the bottom of this and take the necessary steps to keep our communities safe."

“The reports that a system failure within the FBI allowed this individual to purchase a firearm they should never have been able to possess are extremely troubling,” said Representative Scott Tipton. “We must get to the bottom of what happened.”

“Point of contact systems were designed to provide states like Colorado the ability to conduct a background check that is more thorough than a simple FBI NICS check,” said Lindsay Nichols, Federal Policy Director at Giffords. “April’s incident and recent GAO data raise questions about whether all states that have point of contact systems are administering that system in the most effective way possible. We are grateful to Congressman Neguse for his work to get to the bottom of this critical issue and his dedication to ensuring that prohibited purchasers are not able to obtain firearms.”

“The incident in April in which Sol Pais was able to wrongfully pass a background check and forced 300,000 students to miss school across the Front Range is deeply troubling,” said Eileen McCarron, President of Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action. “Effective point of contact background checks in Colorado are essential to ensure that our background check system is rejecting prohibited gun purchases.  We applaud Congressman Neguse for his commitment to ensure that our background check system is working properly and this incident does not occur again.”

Specifically the letter requests an FBI investigation provide specific information on the April incident and how it was able to occur, information on the frequency of FBI audits of state POCs and information on the findings of recent audits.