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Commentary by Sen. Dianne Feinstein
| Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Twenty years ago Saturday, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became the law of the land. This groundbreaking gun-safety law requires background checks on all gun sales by licensed dealers.

Background checks on gun purchases work. The law has stopped more than 2 million convicted felons, domestic abusers and individuals with serious mental illnesses from purchasing firearms.

But the Brady Act has a big loophole: It does not require background checks on the estimated 40 percent of gun transfers made between private parties. This means anyone can purchase a firearm at a gun show or over the Internet without undergoing any sort of background check. Last year, an estimated 6.6 million firearms were transferred this way.

Critics have argued that expanding background checks to close this loophole is pointless because no criminal would consent to a background check. California law – which requires background checks on all gun sales except those between family members – proves otherwise.

This year, background checks in California have been conducted on more than 750,000 gun sales. Nearly 5,800 prospective gun purchasers were denied because they failed the background check. Of those 5,800 denials, 536 – or nearly 10 percent – involved sales between private parties.

Bottom line: So far this year, California’s law has stopped more than 500 criminals, domestic abusers and mentally ill persons from purchasing weapons.

California’s gun death rate has been cut by 56 percent over the past 20 years, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, in part because background checks are required on these private sales. Our state’s system is working, and Californians are safer because background checks on private sales are mandatory.

This has proved true in other states as well. In states that require background checks for private handgun sales, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by their partners and 39 percent fewer law enforcement officers are shot to death with handguns, according to an analysis conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

But only 16 states require background checks on these private transactions. In the other 34 states, private transfers happen every day with no questions asked.

The case for expanded background checks is more urgent now than ever before. The Internet makes it even easier for would-be gun buyers to acquire firearms without submitting to background checks.

A recent report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns examined a sample of individuals who sought to buy a firearm by posting a “want-to-buy” advertisement on one popular gun classifieds website. Of these prospective buyers, 1 in 30 had a criminal record that bars the person from owning a gun.

With an estimated 790,000 for-sale or trade ads posted over the course of a year – or more than 2,000 each day – more than 25,000 guns may be transferred to criminals each year through just this one website. These figures do not count guns transferred to people who are prohibited from possessing firearms for other reasons, such as mental illness.

A status quo where 40 percent of gun sales occur without background checks contributes to the plague of gun violence in this country and must not be allowed to continue. Two decades after the Brady Act was signed into law, it is time for Congress to expand our nation’s background check system to cover Internet, gun show and other private party sales.

We know background checks work. Let’s finish the job we started 20 years ago and finally make expanded background checks a reality in this country.

 

Dianne Feinstein (D) represents California in the U.S. Senate.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Richard Trimble says:

    Are the estimates used for this article W.A.G. or S.W.A.G.?

    w

  2. dave M says:

    In cities like Chicago with some of the strictest laws in the nation, we have some of the highest murder rates. Gun laws do NOT stop criminals or crazy people from causing violence with any object. The crazy shooters at the Washington Navy Yard, Colorado theater and Virginia Tech ALL passed backrounds checks. So tell me how new checks will or could have prevented those horrific shootings?

  3. Larry says:

    there are back round checks already in place here in Illinois, ISP does the work before owner can take possession of purchase. The problem is how can your proposal guarantee that a registry won’t be developed to use for confiscation of weapons? You can’t therefore we reject the proposal. It is always the ulterior motive that has to be discovered before the law is made.

  4. Otto Schwab says:

    Of all the sales background checks have prevented, how many have been prosecuted? Of all the high numbers, 47 have been Prosecuted.

  5. Wendy Weinbaum says:

    Sorry, Ms. Flatulant Feinstein – background checks are an INFRINGEMENT. Now is the time when all REAL Americans put our 2nd Amendment FIRST! And don’t forget that America wasn’t won with a registered gun. As a fellow Jewess in the US, I say you are a stain on American Jewry.

  6. Bruce Richardson says:

    I wonder if Ms. Feinstein knows that most of those people who were prevented from purchasing guns were not criminals. They were the result of errors. That’s why there were less than 100 convictions out of her claimed 2 million stopped from purchasing guns. Criminals would generally know whether they can pass a background check. If they know that they can’t they will simply buy guns on the street. Almost all background checks are done on people who can pass background checks.

    Has the war on drugs kept drugs off the street after being waged for so long? Why would anyone think that a war on guns will keep guns off the street.

  7. dave bowendbowen6@cox.net says:

    There is nothing in the most recent proposals,that violates the second ammendment rights of anybody. Not background checks,or restrictions on military weapons or ammo clips. If you actually read the second ammendment,you will see nothing in there.that says you have the right to carry a gun just because you feel like it. It is not in there!Even hunters are restricted to the types of ammo they can use,depending on what they are trying to kill.If you cannot hit what you are aiming at with less than three shots,you have no business with a gun anyway. Most ardent gun advocates I know,are chicken hawks. Never served in combat,perfectly willing to let others do their fighting. If the had served,they would never pick up a gun ever again. TRUST ME!

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