WASHINGTON, DC – Eight years after a gunman killed six people and severely wounded then-U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) at a community constituent meeting she was hosting, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) joined with his colleagues in the U.S. Senate in reintroducing the Background Check Expansion Act to expand federal background checks to all gun sales. The Reed-backed bill would be a major step toward universal background checks for all gun sales.
Under current federal law, unlicensed or private sellers are not required to conduct a background check prior to transferring a firearm. Ninety-seven percent of Americans support comprehensive background checks. Research indicates that as many as a quarter of all gun sales in the United States may occur without a background check.
“There should be a basic background check on every gun sale, no matter where it happens. We have the technology, we have the tools, we have the public support to implement this. The only question is: will special interest like the National Rifle Association be able to stop this commonsense proposal from becoming law and saving lives?” asked Senator Reed.
The Background Checks Expansion Act will require background checks for the sale of all firearms through sources like the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a process that can take less than two minutes. Under the legislation, this requirement would extend to all unlicensed sellers, whether they do business online, at gun shows, or out of their home. Exceptions to the Background Check Expansion Act include transfers between law enforcement officers, temporarily loaning firearms for hunting and sporting events, providing firearms as gifts to immediate family members, transferring a firearm as part of an inheritance, or temporarily transferring a firearm for immediate self-defense.
“As someone who served in the Army, I have great respect for firearms and responsible gun ownership. The law needs to keep pace with technology and the Internet has exponentially increased illegal buyers’ ability to find someone to sell them a gun without a background check. The Background Check Expansion Act is a responsible and common sense approach to preventing firearms from winding up in the hands of criminals and straw purchasers,” said Senator Reed, who noted that according to the Giffords Law Center, a New York City undercover investigation known as “Point, Click, Fire: An Investigation of Illegal, Online Gun Sales” found that “62% of private online firearm sellers agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer even after the buyer had told the seller that he or she probably could not pass a background check.”
The Giffords Law Center also notes that “nine states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington) and DC require universal background checks at the point of sale for all transfers of all classes of firearms, including purchases from unlicensed sellers. Maryland and Pennsylvania do the same for handgun purchases only.”
The Background Checks Expansion Act is authored by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT).
Companion legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA). Former Representative Giffords and gun violence prevention advocates will be on hand today at the U.S. Capitol to help unveil the bill.