Menendez Joins Call for Major Gun Retailers to Complete Background Checks Before Selling Firearms

Menendez Joins Call for Major Gun Retailers to Complete Background Checks Before Selling Firearms


WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today joined 12 of his Senate colleagues in calling on gun dealers to stop selling firearms to people who do not first pass a background check. If a background check indicates that a firearm purchaser may have a criminal record, the FBI tries to determine whether the purchaser can legally buy a gun. According to federal law, if a criminal background check is not completed within three days, gun stores can move forward with the sale even though there may be a heightened risk that the purchaser is a criminal or otherwise dangerous.

The Senators called on gun retailers to voluntarily close the loophole in federal background check laws, recalling in a letter how this flaw allowed alleged Charleston shooter Dylann Roof to acquire a weapon.

“A completed background check would have uncovered the alleged perpetrator’s prior arrest on a drug charge and his drug addiction, thereby barring him from purchasing the .45-caliber handgun with which he took nine lives,” the senators wrote. “In the last five years, the ‘default to proceed’ loophole has led gun retailers to proceed with 15,729 firearm sales to ‘prohibited people’ – individuals who were deemed ineligible to purchase a firearm once their background checks were completed.”

While several firearms dealers, including WalMart, do not allow these “default sales,” other large retailers do.

“Based on FBI data, the Brady Campaign estimates that on average more than ten prohibited people a day are sold guns by gun dealers who do not use their discretion to wait for a final determination from FBI,” the federal lawmakers added.

The letter was led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and also co-signed by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Full text of the letter is below:

Dear,

We are writing you with a simple ask: stop selling guns to people who do not first definitively pass a background check. The senseless killing of nine innocent people in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, was made possible because the alleged gunman was able to buy a gun without passing a background check.

A “default to proceed” loophole in the Brady Handgun Violence Act allows, but does not require, gun retailers to proceed with a firearms sale after three days, if an applicant’s background check is still pending. While certain facts remain unknown, the FBI acknowledges that a fully completed background check would have uncovered the alleged perpetrator’s prior arrest on a drug charge and his drug addiction, thereby barring him from purchasing the .45-caliber handgun with which he took nine lives.

The perpetrator’s exploitation of this loophole is not an anomaly. In the last five years, the “default to proceed” loophole has led gun retailers to proceed with 15,729 firearm sales to “prohibited people” – individuals who were deemed ineligible to purchase a firearm once their background checks were completed.[1] Based on FBI data, the Brady Campaign estimates that on average more than ten prohibited people a day are sold guns by gun dealers who do not use their discretion to wait for a final determination from FBI. Responsible gun retailers can act today to address this unacceptable situation. The law allows retailers to decide whether or not to allow gun sales to proceed after the three-day “default period” has elapsed. You have a duty to ensure that your products do not get into the hands of dangerous individuals like the Emanuel AME Church shooter.

In 2002, Walmart, the nation’s largest gun retailer, agreed not to transfer firearms without background checks, even if three days had passed. Many other federally licensed dealers take the same approach. The short-term inconvenience is minimal. In the vast majority of cases the background check is completed within minutes and the retailer knows whether they may proceed with the sale. After the horror inflicted upon the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, no responsible gun retailer should transfer a gun without first conducting a complete background check.

We implore you to act now. Join the movement of responsible gun retailers both large and small who will not sell a firearm absent a complete background check.

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