The critical underpinning of all gun violence prevention laws is the Brady Background Check System. Without this foundational measure, no other gun laws can properly function.
By all accounts, the Brady Background Check System has been extremely successful since Jim and Sarah Brady led its passage in 1993, preventing over 3.5 million prohibited gun transactions. In 2015 alone, over 619 prohibited gun transactions were prevented every single day.
Gaps have emerged in the system as technology has progressed, and businesses and individuals have exploited loopholes for profit. While background checks prevent hundreds of thousands of prohibited transactions each year, today approximately 1 in every 5 gun sales occurs without a background check, due in large part to the rise of gun shows and websites that facilitate private sales online.
Also, under current law, a licensed dealer may transfer a gun to a buyer after three business days even if the background check has yet to determine whether that buyer is legally eligible to purchase a gun. This gap has allowed prohibited people to acquire firearms at an alarming rate: Since 2008, over 42,000 firearms have been transferred to prohibited buyers.
Closing these loopholes is overwhelmingly popular with the American public and must be a priority in order to work toward a safer future. Over 90% of Americans have consistently supported background checks for all gun sales, reaching a high of 97% in 2018 — including 97% of gun-owning households.
The Brady Background Check System saves lives, but to ensure that the system is actually comprehensive we must expand background checks, with reasonable and narrow exceptions, to cover every gun transaction, and we must ensure that the system has adequate time to complete a background check before someone can take possession of a firearm.
About the Brady Background Check System
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act went into effect in 1994 as the first federal law to enforce background checks for gun sales. Under this law, federally licensed dealers are required to contact the FBI to run a background check on anyone looking to purchase a gun. The FBI checks the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to see if the individual is a prohibited purchaser. If the system reveals the buyer is legally barred from owning a gun, the sale is denied.
116th Congress (2019-2020)
H.R. 8 and S. 42: Expanding Brady Background Checks
Introduced by: Rep. Mike Thompson (D CA-5) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)
These bills would expand Brady Background Checks to cover all private firearm sales, including those at guns shows, over the internet, or in classified ads with very narrow exceptions.
H.R. 1112: The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019
Introduced by: Majority Whip Rep. Clyburn (D-SC) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
This bill would close the "Charleston Loophole" in which a federally licensed gun dealer can transfer a gun to a customer even if the federal background check is not completed within three business days. H.R. 1112 extends the initial review period from three to 10 business days.
Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C. have expanded background checks to at least some private sales. States that have expanded the scope of their background checks have seen impressive results—53% fewer law enforcement officers are shot and killed in the line of duty, 47% fewer women are shot by intimate partners, and cities in states with expanded background checks see a 48 % reduction in gun trafficking.
States that require background checks on all handgun sales have seen less than half as many mass shooting incidents as states without that expanded requirement, as well as 35% fewer gun deaths per capita. A 2015 study also found significant differences in suicide rates in states that have adopted universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods compared to those without these laws.
STATES WITH EXPANDED BACKGROUND CHECKS
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington
Learn more about Brady Background Checks
- Episode 3: The Brady Bill
- Episode 11: Killing Kate
- Episode 22: Who Needs a Gun in 15 Minutes or Less?
- Episode 56: Domestic Violence, Guns, and Covid-19
- Episode 61: Virginia Tech and the Gun Show Loophole
- Brady Praises Introduction of Universal Background Check Bills in Congress (Jan. 8, 2019)
- Brady Welcomes Legislation to Keep Guns Away from Domestic Abusers (Jan. 17, 2019)
- Brady Applauds Passage of Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8) Out of House Judiciary Committee (Feb. 13, 2019)
- Brady Applauds Passage of 'Charleston Loophole' Bill our of House Judiciary Committee (Feb. 13, 2019)
- Brady Applauds Nevada Leaders for Enacting Expanded Gun Background Check Law (Feb. 15, 2019)
- Brady Hails Passage of H.R. 8 in House of Representatives (Feb. 27, 2019)
- Brady Celebrates House of Representatives Passage of H.R. 1112 (Feb. 28, 2019)
- Brady Supports "Jaime's Law" to Enact Background Checks on Ammunition Sales (March 13, 2019)
- 100 Days Later, Brady Renews Call for Senate to Pass Expanded Background Checks (June 6, 2019)
- Brady Urges the Illinois Senate to Pass SB 1966, Expanding Background Checks and Strengthening "Firearm Owner's Identification" Card Laws (May 20, 2020)