Background Checks | Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Background Checks

Background Checks Keep Guns Out of Dangerous Hands

Signed into law in 1993, the Brady Bill put in place criminal background checks at federally licensed dealers designed to prevent dangerous people from purchasing guns.

What is a Brady background check?

Since the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (or “Brady Law”) was enacted 25 years ago, it has blocked more than three million prohibited gun purchases and processed over 278 million purchase requests. When someone goes to a federally licensed dealer to buy a gun, the retailer contacts the FBI to run a background check. The FBI checks the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to see if they are a felon, fugitive, domestic abuser or other prohibited purchaser. If the system reveals the buyer is legally barred from owning a gun, the sale is denied. Simply put, the Brady Law prevents guns from getting into dangerous hands.

Are There Loopholes?

The bottom line: background checks work. But the Brady Law only requires Federal Firearms Licensees (or FFLs) approved by the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to conduct background checks under federal law. About 1 in 5 gun sales today are conducted without a background check. That includes private sales at gun shows and on websites that sell guns online. These unregulated sales give prohibited buyers a way to purchase guns.

How We Fix It

It is long past time to expand lifesaving Brady background checks to every gun sale. The public agrees: a 2018 study found that 97 percent of Americans -- and 80 percent of gun owners -- support expanded background checks.

H.R. 8, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on January 8, 2019, would do just that. The bill would make it unlawful for anyone other than an FFL to transfer a firearm to an unlicensed person, unless they have conducted a background check according to the existing Brady Law. A similar bill, the Background Check Expansion Act, has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

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