Gun violence prevention has continuously been at the forefront of North American political discourse due to tragedies such as those at Sandy Hook Elementary, San Bernadino, California, and more recently at Pulse nightclub.
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.