Washington, D.C., January 8, 2019 – Just days after a pro-gun safety Congress was sworn into office, leadership in the House of Representatives fulfilled their promise to the American public by introducing H.R. 8, which would expand Brady background checks to cover all gun sales. This comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement that Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal will reintroduce the Background Check Expansion Act in the Senate, which would similarly expand Brady background checks to cover all gun sales. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which bears the name of the gun safety leaders who led the charge to pass the Brady Law 25 years ago, hailed the actions as a monumental step towards keeping our country safe.
“The American people were unequivocal this past November in voting for a pro-gun safety Congress, and we are glowing with pride to see such immediate action,” stated Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign. “The Brady background check system has saved countless lives, but we’ve known and advocated for years to close the loopholes that allow one in five guns to be sold with no questions asked. Universal background checks have universal support, and H.R. 8 is long overdue. This is our moment for real, lasting change to prevent gun violence, and we are proud to be part of such a wide-ranging coalition that has worked for years to make this day a reality.”
In the 25 years since the Brady Law went into effect, more than three million prohibited gun purchases have been blocked. Brady background checks have prevented domestic abusers, convicted felons, and other dangerous people from buying guns from federally licensed firearms dealers, but private sales, including over the internet and at gun shows, remain unregulated. Both of the bills being introduced would close those loopholes and strengthen the Brady background check system, taking a strong step towards fulfilling the mission of Jim and Sarah Brady decades ago.
“Simply put, if every gun sale had to go through a background check, my father would still be alive today,” stated Brady gun safety advocate Kelley Birdsong, whose father Ricky was shot and killed by a white supremacist in 1999. “Every day, innocent people like my dad are being murdered because our elected officials can’t seem to get on board with legislation that almost every single American wants to see in place. Congress, the time is now to take action - for my dad, for the 96 people shot and killed in this country every single day, for everyone impacted by gun violence on a daily basis, and for the countless lives that will be saved by something as simple as expanded background checks on gun sales.”
“Since the inception of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force after the shooting at Sandy Hook, we have been working across the aisle to help prevent gun violence. Today we take a decisive step forward to help save lives right away. As a gun owner, hunter and supporter of the Second Amendment, I am honored to join with Democratic and Republican colleagues to introduce my universal background checks bill that will help keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them,” said House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson (D-CA-05). “From the public polling to the ballot box, the American people have spoken up and demanded action to help end the tragedy of gun violence that far too many in our country face every day. We will continue our fight and we will deliver.”
“97% of Americans agree—if you can’t pass a background check, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. I’m proud to introduce the Background Check Expansion Act as my first bill. Voters stood up this fall and made it clear they want Congress to do more to keep our kids safe from gun violence. We need to listen to them and pass our bill to save lives,” said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY-03) added, “There is no single law that can put an end to mass shootings or gun violence, but there are certainly proactive steps we can take to keep guns out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers. When background checks are used, they keep guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have guns. As government officials it is our responsibility to protect our citizens, and when it comes to gun violence we must do more. The overwhelming majority of Americans want to see action, and we owe it to the victims and their families to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. I am proud to be the lead Republican sponsor of this legislation.”
“During my tenure in Congress, I have always supported reasonable laws that protect Second Amendment rights while ensuring that felons, fugitives, domestic abusers and those who have been found to be a danger to themselves or others do not have access to guns,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04). “This common-sense legislation would further this end by strengthening protections against unlawful gun purchases—closing the ‘private sale loophole’ and listing all those prohibited from buying a firearm in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).”
The Brady Background Check System
- Five years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and just months after Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed, Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). While the GCA established that certain people, including convicted felons, were prohibited from purchasing guns, there was no mechanism to determine whether or not a prospective purchaser was legally allowed to do so.
- After White House press secretary James Brady was shot and paralyzed in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, he and his wife, Sarah Brady, dedicated their lives to gun violence prevention. After six years of lobbying Congress, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, or the Brady Law, was passed by a bipartisan vote. The bill was signed by President Bill Clinton and went into effect on Feb. 28, 1994 - nearly 25 years ago.
- The Brady Law led to the development of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a database housing records to determine whether gun purchasers are legally able to have guns per the GCA. For the first time, a federal system was put into place to block prohibited purchasers from buying guns in America.
- In 2017, over 25 million Brady background checks were processed by the FBI. It’s estimated that over the past 25 years, more than three million prohibited gun purchases have been prevented by Brady background checks.
- Under the current law, only those who buy guns from federally licensed firearm dealers are required to undergo a background check. Unlicensed private sellers, including those at gun sales and online, are not required to perform any sort of check. This has led to as many as one in five gun sales taking place without a background check.
- On the state level, 20 states and the District of Columbia have expanded background checks. However, even with stronger laws in place, those states are still at risk from prohibited purchasers who obtain their guns elsewhere and cross state lines.
- Expanded background checks work - states that require background checks on all handgun sales have seen less than half as many mass shooting incidents as states without that expanded requirement, as well as 35% fewer gun deaths per capita. When Connecticut enacted a universal background check system after the Sandy Hook massacre, the state saw a 40% reduction in gun homicides and a 15% reduction in gun suicides.