WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) joined Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in introducing the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act of 2015. Their legislation would crack down on violence by helping states develop and implement licensing programs similar to Connecticut’s handgun purchasing law, which helps keep guns out of the hands of individuals who would not pass a background check.
The bill is based on research published this afternoon by The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, which shows a clear link between requiring a license to purchase a handgun and a dramatic reduction in firearm homicides. Their research, which was published today in a study titled “Association Between Connecticut’s Permit-to-Purchase Handgun Law and Homicides” in the American Journal of Public Health, found that Connecticut’s adoption of its handgun purchaser licensing law led to a 40 percent decrease in firearm homicide rates. Earlier research found that Missouri’s repeal of its similar law led to a 25 percent increase in firearm homicide rates.
Murphy said, “Today’s research shows that Connecticut’s gun safety laws are working to reduce gun violence and save lives. In Congress, it’s time to listen to the voices of the mothers and fathers, friends and loved ones who have to endure the pain of gun violence every single day. Permit-to-purchase requirements for all handguns keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those who would fail a background check, and our bill would help other states develop programs similar to ours here in Connecticut. The time is now for Congress to pass this commonsense gun safety bill, as well as comprehensive federal background checks legislation, to make our streets, our schools, and our communities safer.”
“The evidence is clear: sensible handgun laws save lives,” said Blumenthal. “By encouraging states to adopt responsible handgun mandates, this measure makes life harder for dangerous criminals and safer for law-abiding gun owners and responsible gun dealers. All states require licenses to drive a car or hunt or fish – so why not handguns, which can kill? Requiring a license to purchase a deadly weapon is at least as important as requiring one to drive a car. This legislation should win broad, bipartisan support.”
“In Connecticut, state leaders moved swiftly following the tragedy at Sandy Hook to enact bipartisan, commonsense laws that make our communities safer,” said Esty. “The legislation we are introducing today is a critical reform that will allow other states to adopt lifesaving licensing programs and prevent gun deaths. I’m proud to join Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, and Congressman Van Hollen to introduce this much-needed bill, which I urge my colleagues in Congress to support.”
“Of the thousands of Americans murdered every single year by firearms, nearly 90 percent of those deaths occur with a handgun. With mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends dying every day because of guns, there is no question that gun violence is tearing at the fabric of our communities,” said Van Hollen. “States require licenses to drive a car or even to fish in local rivers, so requiring a license to buy a deadly handgun is a commonsense step that could save countless lives. This legislation will help states develop responsible handgun licensing programs.”
“Permit-to-purchase laws, which require prospective handgun purchasers to first obtain a license from the police after passing a comprehensive background check, appear to reduce the availability of handguns to criminals and other people who are not legally permitted to buy guns,” said study author Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. “Licensing handgun purchasers is a particularly effective way to achieve comprehensive background checks and keep people from buying guns for people who are not legally allowed to own them.”
The Johns Hopkins researchers also concluded that Connecticut’s handgun law significantly reduced firearm homicide rates. The researchers said, "Consistent with prior research, this study demonstrates that Connecticut's handgun purchaser licensing law is associated with a subsequent reduction in homicide rates. As would be expected if the reduction is driven by the permit to purchase law, the policy's effects are only evident for homicides committed with firearms."
Ten states, including Connecticut and the District of Columbia, currently have handgun purchaser licensing laws, requiring background checks for all gun sales. Such laws also put the responsibility of conducting background checks on local law enforcement, not gun sellers.
The Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act, which Murphy introduced in the U.S. Senate and Van Hollen introduced in the U.S. House, authorizes a grant program at the U.S. Department of Justice to encourage states to establish permit-to-purchase requirements for all handguns, including at gun shows and with private sellers. This grant would help offset the costs associated with the development, implementation, and evaluation of these programs. To be eligible, states must require individuals applying for a license to meet the following criteria:
- Provide proof they are at least 21 years old and a lawful resident of the United States;
- Apply for the license at a law enforcement agency within the state;
- Submit to a background investigation and criminal history check;
- Submit fingerprints and photographs with their application; and
- Be eligible to purchase a handgun pursuant to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.