Rep. Ben Cline introduced a bill last week in Congress which would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) be notified if a background check for a firearm is rejected due to the applicant being in the country illegally.
"This will help ICE to deport more illegal immigrants," said the freshman Republican from Virginia's 6th District.
Out of around 1.5 million background checks denied between 1998-2017, just over 23,000 were rejected because the person seeking a gun was in the United States without legal permission, according to the FBI.
"I was a prosecutor in Harrisonburg for many years and prosecuted many illegal immigrants who ICE had to be notified to come pick them up for deportation," Cline said. "It's an issue, we want to keep our community safe and that's what I'm fighting for in Washington."
Cline's idea was included in bipartisan legislation already passed, which would require a background check for all firearm sales — both at stores and in private. He voted against the bill, deciding instead to introduce the standalone Notify ICE Act.
Another piece of legislation passed by the House would increase the number of days permitted to complete a background check from three to 10. It would close the so-called "Charleston loophole." Gun control advocates argue Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in a South Carolina church in 2015, would have been denied access to a firearm if the FBI had more time to complete his background check.
The owner of Shane's Firearm Destination in Harrisonburg said background checks rarely take longer than a day in Virginia.
"A week added to that time period I think would not do anything differently from what it's already doing, which is just allowing State Police to do their job," Shane Farren said. "But at the end of the day, I think it's just that much longer it may keep one from someone's hands that need it for their own personal protection."
Cline also opposed the bill to expand time for background checks and said if given proper resources, law enforcement is able to complete background checks in the current three-day timeframe.
The two bills will now head to the Republican-controlled Senate and face an uncertain future.