Timeline of the Brady Bill's Passage | Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Timeline of the Brady Bill's Passage

  • A gunman makes an attempt on President Reagan's life outside of a Washington, D.C. hotel. President Reagan, his Press Secretary James Brady, and two police officers are wounded.
  • H.R. 975, originally named "the Feighan Amendment," but became known as the "the Brady Bill," is considered for inclusion in the "Anti-Drug Abuse Amendments Act of 1988." It is stripped from the legislation.
  • In a speech at George Washington University, former President Reagan announces his support of the Brady Bill and encourages Congress to enact it.
  • Reintroduced as H.R. 7 in January, 1991, the re-named "Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act" passes the House of Representatives by a vote of 239-186 and moves to the Senate.
  • The Senate version passes 67-32 and is referred to conference committee to reconcile both versions in a Conference Report. The Conference Report does not garner enough votes in the Senate and the legislation stalls.
  • Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY) reintroduces the "Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act" as H.R. 1025 with 155 cosponsors. Sen. Metzenbaum (D-OH) reintroduces the companion bill as S. 414 in the Senate.
  • The House passes the Brady Bill by a vote of 238-189.
  • The Senate passes the Brady Bill by a vote of 63-36.
  • After the conference committee reconciles the two bills, a joint revised version of the Brady Bill passes the House by a vote of 238-187.
  • The Senate passes the Brady Bill by unanimous consent.
  • President Clinton signs the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
  • The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act goes into effect as "The Brady Law."

Brady Background Check System: Actions Subsequent to Enactment

The Brady Law requires federally-licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) to conduct background checks before a selling gun. If the purchaser is a prohibited purchaser (e.g., a felon) the Brady Law requires that the FFL refuse the sale. Since its enactment, the Brady Law has stopped more than 3 million sales by prohibited purchasers. However, in the 23 years since the Brady law passed, private sellers who are not subject to the Brady law and are not technically required to conduct background checks have grown significantly in number and can sell guns over the Internet and at gun shows with few if any repercussions. As a result, 1 in 5 guns today are sold without a background check.

In addition, the background check system is only as good as the names added to the system. States and the federal government have made efforts to add names of prohibited purchasers, but Congress has both worked to enhance those efforts and, more recently, voted to weaken them.

  • Thirty-two students and faculty are killed in a mass shooting at Virginia Tech. The killer was able to purchase his firearms because the state of Virginia failed to report critical information that disqualified him from purchasing and possessing firearms to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). A subsequent investigation gave rise to legislative action, known as the NICS Improvement Amendments Act (NIAA).
  • President George W. Bush signs the NIAA, which passes the Senate by Unanimous Consent and by voice vote in the House. The NIAA sought to fill these reporting gaps by streamlining the reporting process, and authorized $1.3 billion in grants to states to help improve state and local reporting to NICS. NIAA also requires certain federal agencies to issue rules for the reporting of individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others to the NICS system, just as the Department of Veterans Affairs had been doing since 1998 as outlined in the original Brady Law.
  • Under the Brady Act, Congress also authorized the Attorney General to secure from any federal department or agency information on any person whose is prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law. To implement such information sharing, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) promulgates a regulation and defined the term "adjudicated as a mental defective," as one of the prohibited categories in the 1968 Gun Control Act. This rule validated the reporting procedure that the VA had been using since 1998 to identify at-risk beneficiaries to NICS.
  • President Barack Obama issues a series of executive orders aimed at expanding and strengthening the background check system by clarifying the definition of "engaged in the business of selling firearms" and by increasing the number of names reported to NICS. Among President Obama's executive actions is a directive to the Social Security Administration to comply with the requirement in the NIAA to add names of individuals who are danger to themselves or others to the NICS system.
  • The SSA issues a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) detailing the process through which the agency will begin reporting to NICS the names of social security beneficiaries who are a danger to themselves or others. The proposed rule includes a process for beneficiaries to challenge the determination and appeal consistent with with regular SSA appeals procedures.
  • Donald J. Trump is elected President of the United States. The National Rifle Association endorses him, and contributes $30.3 million toward his victory.
  • After passing both the House and Senate with massive bipartisan majorities, President Obama signs the 21st Century Cures Act into law, which includes provisions that codify certain VA procedures related to mental incompetency determinations and potential loss of gun rights.
  • After receiving and considering 3,995 comments, SSA published its Final Rule on December 19, 2016. Those rules go into effect on January 18, 2017, yet compliance is not required until December 19, 2017.
  • The House of Representatives approves H.J.Res 40 (235-180) to repeal the rule issued by the Social Security Administration. Without hearings the resolution moves to a floor vote. By using their authority under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress permanently bars the SSA from ever issuing or enacting a similar rule.
  • The Senate passes H.J.Res 40 by a vote of 57-43.
  • Without public comment, the Department of Justice under the purview of Attorney General Jeff Sessions issues a new guidance clarifying the definition of "fugitive from justice" as it relates to the Brady bill. The new rule asserts that fugitives shall only be blocked by background checks if they cross state lines to purchase their firearms, overruling the FBI's longstanding interpretation of the language and resulting in the removal of over 500,000 names from the NICS system.
  • President Trump signs H.J. Res 40 into law, giving the NRA its first pay back on his election. He does so without any publicity or notification to the public. As a result, an estimated 324,000 Social Security beneficiaries who may be a risk to themselves or others will go unreported and retain access to firearms during President Trump's four year term.
  • The House passes H.R. 1181 "The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act," repealing the Department of Veterans Affairs reporting requirements under NIAA. In addition to preventing all future reporting by the VA, the bill would immediately remove over 174,000 names of at-risk veterans from NICS, granting them easy access to firearms and putting them at risk of suicide or injury. The Senate is expected to take up companion legislation in the coming weeks. This is another NRA-backed measure to weaken the NICS system.
  • Just over three weeks after the largest mass shooting in modern American history, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduces "The Brady Background Check Expansion Act."

While Congress and the Trump Administration repeatedly take action to weaken the Brady background check system, many states have stepped up to finish the job started by Jim and Sarah Brady and the Brady Bill. Since the enactment of the Brady Bill in 1993, twenty states have taken action to expand background checks to some or all private sales, but this has left a patchwork of laws which allow states with weak laws to subvert states with stronger laws. For instance, a study published this week by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that in the first two weeks after the start of a gun show in Nevada, California hospitals within a two-hour drive from the Nevada state line experienced a 70 percent increase in admissions for gunshot wounds. When gun shows were held in California, where background checks are required on all gun sales, no similar increase in gun violence was recorded in surrounding communities. This is why we need strong legislation at the federal level to bolster our background check system uniformly and nationwide and why the Brady Campaign strongly supports passage of the Murphy Brady background check expansion bill.