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Improve the Background Checks for Gun Sales

On June 2, National Gun Violence Awareness Day, people around the country will Wear Orange to bring attention to the epidemic of gun violence that kills 90 Americans each day. One of those lives lost was Hadiya Pendleton, a teenager from Chicago who was killed at the age of 15. In the wake of her death, her friends and family wore orange to honor her life. Orange, the color that hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves, is a bold color that demands notice.     

Thanks to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), more than 2.5 million attempted purchases by dangerous people who are prohibited from buying guns have been stopped. However, federal law does not currently require background checks for all gun sales, which leads to perilous loopholes. Two bills introduced into the 114th Congress could help to solve this problem and ultimately save lives: The Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R. 3411/S. 2934) and the Background Check Completion Act of 2015 (S. 2213).

Background: Currently, when someone purchases a gun at a store in the United States, a background check is conducted. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has been able to conduct background checks almost instantaneously since it was started in 1998, and has prevented hundreds of thousands of people who are prohibited from owning guns from purchasing one. However, a background check is not required for every gun sale in the United States, so many people are still able to legally purchase guns in places like gun shows or online even, if they would not be able to in a store.

Further, if a background check is not completed within 72 hours, a licensed firearms dealer can sell a gun without waiting until completion. While 95% of NICS background checks are completed within two hours, it is critical that the FBI has additional time to complete background checks when needed. According to the FBI, “a purchaser whose NICS check takes more than 24 hours to complete is almost 20 times more likely to be a prohibited person than the average gun buyer.” When firearm dealers are allowed to bypass background checks, they are too often selling to people who are in fact prohibited purchasers. Everytown for Gun Safety analysis shows that in states that require background checks for all handgun sales, including guns offered in unlicensed sales online and at gun shows, there are 52 percent fewer mass shootings and 47 percent fewer women are killed by intimate partners with firearms.

The Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R. 3411/S. 2934), was introduced into the 114th Congress in July 2015 by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), and in the Senate by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) in 2016. The bill would expand Brady Background Checks to all gun sales (including those made at gun shows and online). It would also improve reporting of prohibited purchasers to NICS and require federal agencies to certify that they have provided appropriate records to NICS. Lastly, it would require gun owners to report their lost or stolen firearm(s) within 48 hours.

The Background Check Completion Act of 2015 (S. 2213), introduced in the 114th Congress in October 2015 by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would prohibit a licensed gun dealer from selling a firearm to an unlicensed person before their background check is completed. In other words, if a background check is not complete, then a licensed firearms dealer cannot make a sale. 

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  • Jewish Values:

    Our tradition emphasizes the sanctity and primary value of human life. The Torah commands us, “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Further, Leviticus 19:16 tells us, “do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” We, as Reform Jews, cannot stand by and watch as thousands of people are impacted by gun violence each year.

    Take Action:

    Join us in honoring the far too many people who have lost their lives to  gun violence by not only wearing orange, but taking action on crucial legislative. Urge your Members of Congress to support the reintroduction of the Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R. 3411/S. 2934) and the Background Check Completion Act (S.2213) into the 115th Congress. Encourage your elected officials to support measures to prevent gun violence in America by improving our background check system. Both bills would bring us closer to ending the scourge of gun violence we continue to face.

    To reach your Member of Congress, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Maya Weinstein at 202-387-2800