Speier Introduces Bill to Require Background Checks for Every Firearm Sale
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) and 40 co-sponsors introduced the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2015. The bill would make substantial improvements to the current background check system and close loopholes that allow certain gun purchasers to avoid background checks altogether such as criminals, domestic abusers, and people with dangerous mental illnesses.
“It’s time to stop letting criminals and people with violent mental illness evade the law and buy firearms, so that innocent people end up dead,” said Speier. “We know that the national background check system works, but unfortunately, millions of guns change hands every year in transactions that do not go through the system. Countless lives will be saved if every gun sale requires a background check and we ensure those checks are complete.”
Polling shows overwhelming support nationwide for simple background checks of people trying to purchase firearms. The existing database, called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), has proven highly effective. In states that require NICS background checks on all handgun sales, 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by their partners, 48 percent fewer on-duty police officers are shot and killed, 48 percent fewer people commit suicide with guns, and there is 48 percent less gun trafficking. After the Newtown massacre, Connecticut’s use of NICS caused gun killings to decline by 40 percent.
“The mass shootings in Charleston and Chattanooga have highlighted loopholes in our background check system that make it far too easy for criminals and other dangerous people to easily obtain guns,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We applaud Congresswoman Speier for introducing the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would make vital improvements to our background check system by encouraging states to send records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check system and requiring background check on all gun sales —including Internet sales and gun shows. It's simple—send the records, close the gaps, keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.”
Numerous gaps in the background check systems exist that enable drug abusers, the mentally ill, and others who are federally prohibited from having guns to acquire firearms. The Fix Gun Checks Act would close gaps in state mental health reporting. Eight states and the District of Columbia still have no reporting laws for mental health records. In addition, eight states have submitted fewer than 100 records to NICS and five submitted fewer than five records. This bill would close those gaps and ensure record submission compliance by states, requiring federal courts and agencies to submit relevant information and clarifying definitions of mental illness.
The Fix Gun Checks Act would also expand background checks to cover every gun transaction, with reasonable exceptions. Currently, federal law only requires licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks and due to this loophole, 40 percent of gun sales do not involve a background check of any kind. This bill would close that loophole by requiring background checks for gun transfers by private sellers, at gun shows, and online, just as licensed dealers are required to conduct checks under the existing Brady Law.
The bill is endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, the Violence Policy Center, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence United with the Million Mom March.