Reed Aims for an End to ‘Default’ Gun Sales
Decrying a deadly loophole in gun laws, Senators call on firearm dealers to cease gun sales until background check is complete
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to curb gun violence, U.S. Senator Jack Reed and 12 U.S. Senators are renewing efforts to get gun dealers to stop selling firearms to people who do not first pass a complete background check.
When a criminal background check indicates that a firearm purchaser may have a criminal record, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tries to determine whether the purchaser can legally buy a gun. Due to a loophole in existing law, if this process takes longer than 72 hours, gun dealers can finish the sale without a completed background check, despite a heightened risk that the purchaser is a criminal or otherwise unfit to purchase a weapon.
A growing number of firearms dealers—including WalMart, the country’s largest—do not allow these “default sales.” In the letter sent to Cabela’s, EZ Pawn, and Bass Pro Shops – three large firearms dealers that currently allow default sales – and the National Shooting and Sports Foundation, the Senators pointed out the serious, and potentially deadly, consequences of this practice and urged the retailers to cease default sales.
“In the last five years, the ‘default to proceed’ loophole has led gun retailers to proceed with 15,729 firearm sales to ‘prohibited people’ – individuals who were deemed ineligible to purchase a firearm once their background checks were completed,” the Senators wrote in their letter.
In the case of the horrific killing of nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC last month, “the FBI acknowledges that a fully completed background check would have uncovered the alleged perpetrator’s prior arrest on a drug charge and his drug addiction, thereby barring him from purchasing the .45-caliber handgun with which he took nine lives,” the Senators said.
Based on FBI data, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence estimates that on average more than ten prohibited people per day are sold guns by gun dealers who do not use their discretion to wait for a final determination from FBI before completing a gun sale.
Joining Senator Reed as co-signers are U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mazie Hirono, Tim Kaine, Edward Markey, Robert Menendez, Chuck Schumer, and Sheldon Whitehouse.
Full text of the letter is as follows:
To Cabela’s, EZ Paw, Bass Pro Shops, and the National Shooting and Sports Foundation,
We are writing you with a simple ask: stop selling guns to people who do not first definitively pass a background check. The senseless killing of nine innocent people in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, was made possible because the alleged gunman was able to buy a gun without passing a background check.
A “default to proceed” loophole in the Brady Handgun Violence Act allows, but does not require, gun retailers to proceed with a firearms sale after three days, if an applicant’s background check is still pending. While certain facts remain unknown, the FBI acknowledges that a fully completed background check would have uncovered the alleged perpetrator’s prior arrest on a drug charge and his drug addiction, thereby barring him from purchasing the .45-caliber handgun with which he took nine lives.
The perpetrator’s exploitation of this loophole is not an anomaly. In the last five years, the “default to proceed” loophole has led gun retailers to proceed with 15,729 firearm sales to “prohibited people” – individuals who were deemed ineligible to purchase a firearm once their background checks were completed. Based on FBI data, the Brady Campaign estimates that on average more than ten prohibited people a day are sold guns by gun dealers who do not use their discretion to wait for a final determination from FBI. Responsible gun retailers can act today to address this unacceptable situation. The law allows retailers to decide whether or not to allow gun sales to proceed after the three-day “default period” has elapsed. You have a duty to ensure that your products do not get into the hands of dangerous individuals like the Emanuel AME Church shooter.
In 2008, Walmart, the nation’s largest gun retailer, partnered with Mayors Against Illegal Guns and agreed not to transfer firearms without background checks, even if three days had passed. The short-term inconvenience is minimal. In the vast majority of cases the background check is completed within minutes and the retailer knows whether they may proceed with the sale. After the horror inflicted upon the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, no responsible gun retailer should transfer a gun without first conducting a complete background check.
We implore you to act now. Join the movement of responsible gun retailers both large and small who will not sell a firearm absent a complete background check.