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Guns: Background Checks

This section contains news items regarding background check requirements for gun purchases.

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Congress pulls rule keeping guns from mentally unstable

2017-Feb-08  (Updated: 2017-Feb-15)By: Rob Dennis

The House of Representatives and Senate have voted to repeal a regulation that would ban gun ownership by disabled Social Security recipients with mental disorders.

The regulation affects an estimated 75,000 beneficiaries who receive Disability Insurance benefits based on mental impairments. The regulation would have added their names to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). - preventing them from purchasing guns.

The rule was finalized in the final months of the Obama administration, after an evaluation process that included almost 100,000 comments from the public.

The repeal was not subject to a Senate filibuster because the rule is being nullified under the Congressional Review Act. It still needs a signature by President Trump to take effect.

Filibuster rules help kill background check law

2013-Apr-17By: Rob Dennis

Legislation that would have expanded background checks to guns purchased at gun shows, from printed ads, and over the Internet was rejected by the Senate, despite having the support of a majority of senators.

The compromise - brokered by Sens. Joe Manchin and Patrick Toomey - was an amendment to a package of legislation aimed at reducing gun violence. The amendment still would have allowed relatives, neighbors and friends to give and sell guns to one another -- a loophole that would have ignored 80 percent of criminal gun sales (see our story below).

Background checks currently are only required on guns purchased from federally licensed gun dealers.

The original package, including a more expansive background-check measure, was approved by the Judiciary Committee along party lines. It has yet to be debated by the full Senate.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun lobbyists opposed the compromise. The NRA has said it will score senators on their votes, and launched a $500,000 online ad Wednesday opposing gun control.

A majority of senators - 54 - voted in favor of the amendment, with 46 senators voting against it. Yet 60 votes were required to pass it. For more on why, click here.

The following senators cast NO votes on the amendment...

Lamar Alexander, Kelly Ayotte, John Barrasso, Max Baucus, Mark Begich, Roy Blunt, John Boozman, Richard Burr, Saxby Chambliss, Daniel Coats, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, Bob Corker, John Cornyn, Mike Crapo, Ted Cruz, Michael Enzi, Deb Fischer, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Heidi Heitkamp, Dean Heller, John Hoeven, James Inhofe, Johnny Isakson, Mike Johanns, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Mitch McConnell, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Mark Pryor, Harry Reid, James Risch, Pat Roberts, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby, John Thune, David Vitter, Roger Wicker.

Note: Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, changed his vote to "no" so that he would be allowed under the Senate's rules to bring the proposal up again in the future. Click here for an explanation of what this is about.

Background check bill exludes 80 percent of criminal guns

2013-Apr-11By: Rob Dennis and Barry Shatzman

The Senate is scheduled to begin debate next week on a set of gun-control bills. The first bill likely to be discussed would be one to require background checks for firearms sales at gun shows and over the Internet.

The bill is a deal brokered by Senators Joe Manchin and Patrick Toomey. It also would expand certain gun rights, including loosening rules for transporting firearms across state lines.

There is a loophole in the bill, however. It would exempt "personal transfers," allowing relatives, neighbors and friends to give and sell guns to one another. Yet, in a 2004 U.S. Department of Justice survey, 4 out of every 10 people imprisoned for gun crimes said they got the firearms from family or friends. Almost another 40 percent said they received them from street or black market suppliers.

In other words, the bill would ignore almost 80 percent of nefarious gun sales.

A separate bill being considered in the House of Representatives could narrow that loophole. The Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act would make it a felony to buy a gun for someone who is prohibited from owning it. The 15-year minimum penalty is intended to deter such purchases - especially if the original purchaser can be traced with expanded background checks.

The two bills together also may help shut down the black market.

"The street has to get its guns from somewhere, after all. Someone with a clean record can buy 60 guns at a gun show and then begin selling them at a healthy mark-up on the street. With no records of the gun-show sales, and weak laws around private sales, the police have little ability to crack down on these suppliers," Ezra Klein wrote in the Washington Post.

For more, read the Washington Post analysis.

PBS NewsHour aired a discussion about how background checks work, and how they would change under the proposed laws. You can watch it here (The discussion begins about 4 minutes into the 15-minute video)

This 2012 study, Reducing Gun Violence in America, offers a wealth of information about the issue. You can read it here (The information about how gun criminals obtained firearms is on Page 139)

Senate proposes background check

2013-Mar-20By: Rob Dennis

The Senate is expected to vote next month on four bills to tackle gun violence.

The bills, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee over the past two weeks, include calls for an assault weapons ban and universal background checks.

The law on background checks would require checks for nearly all gun purchases, including private sales at gun shows and elsewhere. It also would require states to do a better job reporting felons and others prohibited from buying guns to the federal background-check database. (S-374).

For more on the other bills included in the package, click here

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