Skip to content
Solutions

Close the Charleston Loophole

Close the Charleston Loophole

What is the problem?

Under federal law, gun purchases may move forward by default after three business days—even if a background check has not been completed. While 90% of federal background checks are completed in minutes, those that take longer than three business days are four times as likely to be denied.

In 2015, the shooter of nine worshipers at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina was able to purchase a gun because of a dangerous loophole in the background check system. He was legally prohibited from having a firearm, but was able to complete the purchase because his background check was not completed within three business days.

Firearm sales should not be permitted to move forward until a background check on the prospective purchaser has been completed.

Which states have closed or limited the Charleston Loophole?

21 states have adopted this policy

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Alabama has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Alaska has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Arizona has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Arkansas has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

California has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
10-day waiting period for all firearm sales

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Colorado has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Dealer may not transfer firearm until background check is complete.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Connecticut has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Extends time for background check to 60 days

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Delaware has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Extends time for background check to 25 days

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Florida has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Dealers may not transfer gun until 3 business days have elapsed from purchase, or until background check is complete, whichever occurs later.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Georgia has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Hawaii has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Permit to purchase not issued earlier than 14 days after application and authorities have up to 20 days to issue or deny permit.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Idaho has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Illinois has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Authorities have 30 days to issue or deny application for permit, required to purchase any firearm.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Indiana has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Iowa has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Kansas has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Kentucky has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Louisiana has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Maine has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Maryland has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Authorities have 30 days to issue or deny application for permit to purchase a handgun; 7-day waiting period required for sales of certain firearms.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Massachusetts has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Authorities have 40 days to issue or deny permits to purchase firearms.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Michigan has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Minnesota has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Requires 5-day waiting period for sales of handguns and semiautomatic military-style assault weapons

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Mississippi has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Missouri has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Montana has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Nebraska has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Nevada has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

New Hampshire has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

New Jersey has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Authorities have 30 days to issue or deny an application for permits to purchase firearms

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

New Mexico has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

New York has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Extends time for background check to 30 days.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

North Carolina has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Authorities have 14 days to issue or deny an application for a permit to purchase a handgun.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

North Dakota has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Ohio has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Oklahoma has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Oregon has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Pennsylvania has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Extends time to complete background check to 10 days.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Rhode Island has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Requires 7-day waiting period for all firearms

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

South Carolina has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

South Dakota has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Tennessee has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Authorities deny sales if prospective purchaser charged with crime that would prohibit them from firearm possession, even if final disposition is not available to background check operator.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Texas has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Utah has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Dealer prohibited from transferring firearm until background check is complete.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Vermont has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Extends time for background check to 7 business days

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Virginia has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Extends time to complete background check to 5 days.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Washington has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Dealers must wait 10 business days to transfer firearm if authorities have not resolved background check.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

West Virginia has not adopted this policy

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Wisconsin has adopted this policy

What does the state law require?
Dealers must wait 5 business days to transfer handgun if authorities have not resolved the background check.

Charleston Loophole Closed or Limited

Wyoming has not adopted this policy

How it Works

Closing this loophole would ensure that no firearm is sold with an incomplete background check.

While federal law requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks on all prospective gun buyers, due to an NRA-backed loophole in the 1993 Brady Bill, gun sales can proceed by default after three business days—even without a completed background check.

Most background checks are completed on the spot, but more than 284,000 checks take longer than three business days every year. A review of federal checks through the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) between 2015 and 2019 revealed that background checks delayed longer than three days are 4 times more likely to be denied.

This loophole presents a special danger for domestic violence victims. In its 2016 report, the Government Accountability Office found that background checks involving domestic violence flags take longer to resolve. Domestic violence prohibitions involve multiple criteria that often require significant investigation and coordination with local law enforcement. For example, because federal law only prohibits abusers from buying a firearm if they were married to their victims (or if they shared a child or a home), a background check may require investigation into the relationship between the parties. Between 2006 and 2015, it took the FBI more than three business days to determine 30 percent of denials based on misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. That means licensed dealers were legally authorized under federal law to transfer guns to 18,000 people who were prohibited domestic violence misdemeanants simply because their background checks took longer than three days.

Myth & Fact

Myth

The loophole is insignificant because 97% of all background checks are completed within three business days.

Fact

Background checks delayed more than three business days are 4x more likely to be denied. This means that the loophole results in prohibited persons obtaining firearms. Between January and mid-November, 2020, the FBI had flagged nearly 6,000 gun sales because a purchaser who could not legally possess a firearm was able to buy one because of the Charleston loophole—more than in any other entire calendar year.

All Resources

Close the Charleston Loophole