- Gun Violence
116th Congress Makes Gun Violence Prevention A Priority
On January 8, 2011, Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot in Tucson, AZ. On January 8, 2019, House Democratic leadership introduced a bill requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases. It is a small but smart step, and it has a real chance at becoming law.
Currently, only licensed arms dealers must conduct background checks on gun sales. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8) would require a background check on the sale or transfer of any firearm. Unlicensed dealers, like those selling weapons over the internet, at gun shows, and through private sales, would have to use the same background check system. H.R. 8 would also impose penalties and/or fines, including jail time, for noncompliance.
While H.R. 8 would make this rule apply to nearly all gun sales and transfers, there are a few exceptions to the rule:
Temporary transfers for sporting purposes:
- The bill allows people to transfer firearms at shooting ranges, while hunting, trapping, and/or fishing, provided there’s no reason to believe a crime will be committed.
- H.R. 8 allows immediate family members to transfer firearms within their family.
- It also allows a transfer to an executor or trustee of an estate upon a person’s death without a background check.
- Any member of law enforcement or armed forces can transfer a firearm while acting within the scope of their official duties.
- This exception allows individuals to transfer firearms to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm without a background check.
Background checks are widely popular among broad swaths of Americans, proven to keep our communities safer, and keep guns from getting into the hands of the wrong people. For example:
- Universal background check legislation routinely gets support from overwhelming majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and gun owners. National public support ranges from 85 percent to 97 percent
- Since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was created in 1997 to the end of 2017, background checks prevented more than 3 million gun sales or transfers.
- In 2017 alone, NICS prevented approximately 181,000 attempted gun purchases because the individual trying to buy the gun was prohibited from owning one.
- It’s been demonstrated that up to 80 percent of firearms used in crimes are obtained without a background check.
- Approximately 22 percent of guns are purchased without a background check through means like gun shows, private sales, and over the internet
While H.R. 8 is not the broad, sweeping reform needed to successfully address gun violence, it is an important, common sense first step. Universal background checks will prevent people from acquiring guns who shouldn’t have them in the first place, saving lives. Moreover, it could be the first crack in the barrier that has prevented any sensible gun legislation from passing Congress for decades.
Gun violence prevention must be a top priority for the 116th Congress. Contact your member of Congress now.