Laws and Loopholes
In 1993, the Brady Law was signed by President Clinton to implement the national system of Brady Background Checks on gun sales. Since the law was enacted in 1994, over 300 million background checks have taken place, and over 3 million firearm sales to prohibited gun purchasers have been stopped. Countless lives have been saved by this system.
Yet today, one in five gun sales are conducted without a background check — through gun shows, private sales, antique dealers, and over the internet in online sales. More than 90 percent of Americans agree that anyone who buys a gun – no matter where or how – should go through the Brady Background Check. But holes in our nation's gun laws mean that too often guns fall into the wrong hands.
The Brady Law was passed before the rise of the internet. How Americans buy and sell products has changed significantly since 1994, and our nation’s gun laws need to address these changes. Today, unlicensed gun sales made online are unregulated and unchecked. Our gun laws need to address the fact that guns are sold online - and those sales shouldn’t get a free pass. The 116th Congress is working to close this loophole through the introduction of H.R. 8.
Gun shows are public events where guns are sold at community venues like fairgrounds or civic centers. The “gun show loophole” refers to the fact that in many states, private sellers aren't required to perform background checks on gun purchasers.
There's a 500 percent increase in the likelihood of homicide if a gun is available during a domestic abuse situation. However, unmarried partners and stalkers aren’t considered prohibited persons under the law. This so-called "boyfriend loophole" means that only abusers who are or were at one time married to, have a child with, or are a parent/guardian of the victim are prohibited from buying a firearm.
The deadly costs of the "boyfriend loophole" are high. Roughly every 16 hours, a woman is shot and killed by a current or former intimate partner. In 2018 alone, there were 653 gun-related domestic violence fatalities in the United States, and more than 500 people were killed during a domestic violence incident involving a gun.
The 2015 mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist (A.M.E) Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine innocent people exposed an area of weakness in our federal gun laws, commonly referred to as the “Charleston Loophole.” This dangerous loophole allows guns to be automatically transferred to a purchaser in three days if the background check isn’t completed. Although the shooter at AME Church was prohibited by law from possessing a firearm, the “Charleston Loophole” allowed him to acquire his gun before the FBI could complete a background check. The 116th Congress is working to address this loophole through the introduction of H.R. 1112, or the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019.
Today, only seven states prohibit people convicted of a hate crime misdemeanor from owning a gun. Many will plead down to a hate crime misdemeanor from other charges to prevent losing their right to own a firearm. What's more, hate crimes are on the rise: 2017 was the fourth consecutive year of increased hate crimes prosecuted.
America’s patchwork of local laws allow dangerous people to get their hands on guns. Ninety percent of the guns used in crimes come from roughly 5 percent of licensed gun dealers. Gun crime is primarily concentrated in urban areas. While some municipalities or states have very strict gun laws, a neighboring state might have more lenient gun laws. This allows for the trafficking of guns from one state to the other.
Trace data that show where crime guns were first sold used to be publicly available, but the harmful Tiahrt Amendment put an end to that. Brady and Congress are working to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment so communities can identify and try to reform dealers who are willingly taking advantage of loopholes and flooding our streets with crime guns.