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Brady Background Checks

What are Brady Background Checks?

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 approximately 4 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.


117th Congress (2020-2022)


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.


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

    Urge Your Representative: Expand Background Checks!


    How Brady Background Checks Became Law

    How Jim and Sarah Brady fought to pass the Brady Bill, establishing our country's background check system for gun sales.

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    Learn more about Brady Background Checks