New report offers solutions to keep guns out of dangerous hands

Washington, D.C., March 5, 2018 - Twenty-four years after the enactment of the Brady law to create background checks on gun purchases, mass shooters and other banned gun buyers continue to take advantage of gaps in the system at an alarming rate. Today, the organization that led the fight for the bill's passage is calling for a series of actions essential to strengthening the system--the best defense we as a nation have to prevent guns from landing in dangerous hands.

While the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has blocked over 3 million attempts to buy guns by dangerous people, there remain a number of fixable gaps. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has released a new research report, "America's Background Check System and Ways to Improve It", that lays out the case for why the system needs to be fortified and solutions for how to do so. Background checks are an essential piece of the three-point policy plan released by the Brady Campaign earlier this year.

"The Brady background system is one of the critical tools needed to protect Americans from dangerous individuals obtaining guns and using them to kill and injure innocent people," stated Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign. "It deserves real investment like any other critical defense system, so that every gun sale is subject to a background check. We need a committed effort from lawmakers to fill the gaps in NICS, one that goes beyond just putting more money into the system. Americans want and deserve no less than a background check system that operates the way it was intended to work."

The report offers a series of remedies, which can be immediately implemented, to ensure life-saving improvements to NICS. There are bills awaiting votes in Congress that would address every one of these recommendations, all of which can be found in the report. These include:

  • Closing the private sales gap. The Brady law applies to federally licensed firearm dealers, not private sellers. As a result, at least one in five guns are sold by private sellers without background checks, including through the Internet and at gun shows. Congress needs to fix that.
  • Closing the "Charleston Loophole." If a background check has not been completed in three business days, current federal law allows the sale to be completed without a background check. This is what led to a white supremacist in Charleston, S.C. buying the gun he used to murder eight black churchgoers at the Emanuel African Methodist Church.
  • Providing more funding to the system. In too many instances, federal, state, and tribal agencies are not entering complete and timely records into the background check system, leading to guns being sold to dangerous people. Due to one of these data gaps, the shooter in Sutherland Springs, Texas was able to purchase a gun he wasn't allowed to have under long-standing federal law. He then killed 26 people attending a Sunday church service.
  • Encouraging states to be "Point of Contact States" and operate their own background check system. In addition to relying on federal data, "Point of Contact" states incorporate their own databases into the background check system for a more thorough search. More participating states would ensure that an investigator has more complete information and records to conduct a background check. A 2003 study found states using their own systems in addition to federal databases blocked prohibited purchases about 20% more often than states that weren't doing so.

"With 97 percent of Americans behind them, support for universal background checks is itself almost universal," said Brady co-president Avery Gardiner. "And to have universal background checks requires us to invest our time, efforts and funding into NICS. These are simple but important fixes that we can all agree on, and it's time for Congress to act and pass bills that will keep guns out of dangerous hands."

Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.


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