Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joined Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy and Dianne Feinstein in introducing legislation to close a current loophole that allows gun sales to proceed if a background check is not completed after 72 hours, even if the gun buyer is not legally allowed to purchase a gun. 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. If this process takes longer than 72 hours, gun dealers can complete the sale even though there is a heightened risk that the purchaser is legally disqualified from purchasing a gun.
The Background Check Completion Act would require a completed background check for every gun buyer who purchases a gun from a federally-licensed gun dealer, closing the loophole that has allowed thousands of gun sales to prohibited buyers, including the sale of the firearm used by Dylann Roof in his deadly attack at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in June.
A recent study by the Center for American Progress found that gunfire deaths in Virginia outnumber deaths in car accidents. The study also concluded that Virginia is one of the top exporters of crime guns, women are killed with guns by intimate partners at a high rate in Virginia and the Commonwealth has been disproportionately affected by mass shootings. The study concludes that, “over the next four years, an estimated 3,540 people will be killed with guns in Virginia if current trends continue,” and recommends – among several prescriptions – requiring universal background checks.
“I was Governor in 2007 when we had the worst school shooting in the history of the United States. Thirty-two students and faculty killed and another seventeen injured at Virginia Tech in April 2007,”said Kaine. “The shooting at Tech wouldn’t have happened but for a glitch in the background record check system. What we learned painfully – through the loss of those thirty-two people and all of the families that were affected – was the better background record check system you have, the safer you will be. The test isn’t ‘can you eliminate every crime or every gun crime?’ but the question is ‘can you make society safer?’ We learned with a lot of scar tissue after Virginia Tech that you can, and if you have a better background record check system you will. And that’s why I’m so supportive of this bill to strengthen our background records check system.”
“No check, no sale must be the rule – enacted as law – to close a gaping loophole spreading the epidemic of gun violence,” said Blumenthal. “Over the past five years, 15,700 ineligible buyers have acquired guns simply because a background check could not be completed within 72 hours. One of them was Dylann Roof, who killed nine innocent churchgoers in Charleston with a gun he was ineligible to buy. Waiting for a background check, even if longer than 72 hours, is a minor inconvenience far outweighed by the benefit of keeping lethal weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. No background check, no gun, is a rule that can help save lives. The gun violence epidemic is a public health crisis– a contagion that can be stopped with common sense sensible measures like closing this loophole. Despite the distortion and dishonesty of single-issue groups like the NRA, the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, believe in background checks and want the system to work well.”
“For too long, our legislators have prioritized gun industry profits over the safety of our families,”said Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “This bill is an important signal that we value the lives of our loved ones far too much to allow guns to be transferred without a complete background check.”
Several gun retailers, including Walmart, the nation’s largest, have voluntarily chosen to only proceed with gun sales after a background check is completed.
Joining Kaine, Blumenthal, Murphy and Feinstein as co-sponsors of the legislation are U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, Ben Cardin, Dick Durbin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mazie Hirono, Robert Menendez, Jack Reed, Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse.