SENATORS INTRODUCE BACKGROUND CHECK EXPANSION ACT TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) led 28 senators, including U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), on Wednesday in introducing the Background Check Expansion Act to expand federal background checks to the sale or transfer of all firearms by private sellers, with certain reasonable exceptions. Under current law, unlicensed or private sellers are not required to conduct a background check prior to transferring a firearm. Murphy joined Durbin, Blumenthal, and Cortez Masto, as well as gun violence survivors and advocates, at a press conference this afternoon to unveil the bill. 

Research indicates that as many as a quarter of all gun sales in the United States may occur without a background check even though 90% of Americans support comprehensive background checks. 

“This is old fashioned common sense. People who can’t pass a background check shouldn’t be able to buy a gun and endanger your loved ones,” said Murphy. “90 percent of Americans support stronger background checks, and it’s time for Congress to listen.

“Since the October 1 massacre in Las Vegas, more than 2,500 Americans have been shot, at least 772 of them fatally,” said Durbin. “More than 3,000 people have been shot in Chicago so far this year—more than 500 fatally. 94% of Americans support requiring background checks on all gun sales—including 93% of gun owners. If you follow politics, you know that those numbers are absolutely overwhelming. Is Congress listening?”  

Blumenthal said, “This background check measure sends a powerfully meaningful message on gun violence prevention: We are not surrendering— in fact we’re redoubling our fight for common sense steps that the vast majority of Americans support. Thousands of guns trade hands every year without the basic safeguard of a background check. Closing the loophole by which these guns are acquired is just common sense – and it will save lives. We cannot afford to wait until another Sandy Hook, or Charleston, or Las Vegas to take action to stop the uniquely American epidemic of gun violence. Expanding background checks to include privately sold firearms is a vital first step.”

“Gun violence found over 22,000 attendees of a concert on the Las Vegas Strip. It found the State of Nevada, and I am devastated to say it found me,” said Cortez Masto. “I am proud to support Senator Murphy’s bill to close the loophole under current federal law that allows the purchase of guns from online retailers, gun shows, or private dealers without a background check. As a gun owner, I am keenly aware of the serious responsibility of owning firearms. We must work to keep guns out of the hands of the seriously mentally ill, people with a history of violence, criminals, and terrorists. I call on Senate Republicans to work with Senator Murphy and I to stop the violence that has become too common in big cities and small towns across America. Let’s work together to pass common sense gun safety measures like background checks before another community is forced to hold the record for the most dead at the hands of a terrorist.”

The Background Check Expansion Act will require background checks for the sale or transfer of all firearms from one private party (i.e. a person who is not federally licensed) to another. This requirement extends to all unlicensed sellers, whether they do business online, at gun shows, or out of their home. Private sellers would need to visit a licensed firearms dealer to run the necessary background check before any gun sale is finalized. Exceptions to the Background Check Expansion Act include transfers between law enforcement officers, temporarily loaning firearms for hunting and sporting events, providing firearms as gifts to immediate family members, transferring a firearm as part of an inheritance, or temporarily transferring a firearm for immediate self-defense.

In addition to Durbin, Blumenthal, and Cortez Masto, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Bob Casey (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) cosponsored Murphy’s legislation.

Full text of the bill is here.

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