Back to home page

 

Gun Control Issue Paper

This paper establishes that Staten Island Democratic Association’s position on Federal Gun Control

Background Checks

In 1997, the Supreme Court in Printz v. United States ruled that the federal government cannot compel state and local law enforcement officials to submit records of prohibited persons to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

As a result of the Printz decision, NICS is missing records of those who should be prohibited from obtaining a weapon.

There also have been actions taken at the federal level that has resulted in records not being entered into or removed from the background check system.

For example, federal domestic violence law does not capture all those who should be included in the FBI background check system. The policy change made by the Justice Department that defined "fugitive from justice" as someone having crossed state lines has resulted in outstanding warrant records being removed from the background check system. Legislation passed in 2017 rescinded the requirement that the Social Security Administration submit to the background check system the names of those who have been "adjudicated as a mental defective."

The Gun Control Act of 1968 mandated the licensing of individuals and companies engaged in the business of selling firearms. Licensed firearm dealers were prohibited from doing business anywhere except the address listed on their Federal Firearms License. The Firearms Protection Act of 1986 permitted licensed firearm dealers to conduct business at gun shows and narrowed the definition of those required to buy a license to those who devote "time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms."

The Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton on November 30, 1993, requires that background checks be conducted on individuals before a firearm may be purchased from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer.

Unlike a licensed firearms dealer, an unlicensed person is not required to perform a background check on the person he is transferring, selling, trading, giving, transporting, or delivering a firearm to. The only prohibition they have is if they know or have reasonable cause to believe the buyer does not reside in the same State or is prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms.

According to a study released in 2017 by Northwestern University and Harvard University, 22% of gun transfers are made without a background check.

The FBI has three business days to complete a background check. The overwhelmingly number of background checks are completed instantly. If a denial is not issued by the FBI within those three business days, it is within the licensed gun dealer’s discretion whether or not to transfer the firearm, if permitted by state law.

The background check on the gunman at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina was not completed within the three business days. The gun dealer was therefore allowed to proceed with the sale even though the shooter should have failed a background because of his history of unlawful controlled substance use.

In 2014, the FBI determined that 2,511 background checks that were not completed within three business days resulted in the transfer of a gun to an individual, who would have failed a background check.

The Tiahrt amendment to the FY 2004 Consolidated Appropriations Act requires the FBI to destroy all approved background check gun purchaser records within 24 hours.

The Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act prohibits background check documents from being recorded or maintained by any Federal, State or political subdivision, and prohibits the establishment of any system for the registration of firearms, firearm owners, or firearm transactions or dispositions, except for those prohibited from owning a firearm, even though records of background checks of prospective firearms purchasers help law enforcement deter fraud and detect dealers who might be providing false information about the purchaser of a firearm.

As well, corrupt dealers engage in practices that federal law enforcement could uncover by looking at patterns in background check records.

The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 limits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) from inspecting gun dealers more than once a year. Follow-up inspections are allowed only if multiple violations are found.

The Tiahrt amendment prohibits the ATF from requiring gun dealers to submit their inventories to law enforcement.

In states where gun transfers between unlicensed individuals are not subject to a background check, the United States Postal Service allows the mailing of weapons (not handguns) between individuals inside state lines. FedEx and UPS both prohibit the shipping of weapons.

Policy Position: The Staten Island Democratic Association supports legislation to

  • amend federal domestic violence law to prohibit all domestic and intimate partner abusers and stalkers from possessing a firearm;
  • define "fugitive from justice" to include those with outstanding warrants who have not crossed state lines;
  • require the Social Security Administration to submit to the FBI background check system, the records of those who have been adjudicated by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority as being a danger to himself or others; or lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs;
  • require a background check on all gun transfers, regardless of whether or not the seller is a licensed firearms dealer;
  • allow the FBI sufficient time to complete a background check on all gun transfers;
  • allow Federal, State or political subdivision’s to retain NICS documents for the purpose of detecting fraud and corruption by gun dealers;
  • lift the limit on the number of inspections of gun dealers by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms;
  • require gun dealers to submit their inventories to the ATF;
  • prohibit the U.S. Postal Service from mailing all weapons to unlicensed persons.

 

Firearm Tracing

The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 prohibits the federal government from creating a national registry of firearm ownership.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act prohibits the establishment of any system for the registration of firearms, firearm owners, or firearm transactions or dispositions, except for those prohibited from owning a firearm.

When the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) receives a request from law enforcement to conduct a trace on a firearm, the ATF using the serial number, traces the firearm from the manufacturer or importer, through the wholesaler to gun shop. The gun shop goes to their ledger and provides the ATF with the name of the person the firearm was sold to. (They are not required to keep computerized records.)

If the gun shop went out of business, their records are shipped to the ATF Warehouse in West Virginia. The West Virginia facility has more than 285 million records from out-of-business gun shops.

The ATF cannot establish a computerized database of the records. They use a manual system to find the correct gun shop and the record of who bought the firearm.

There are no records for the 22% of firearm transfers that are not made through a licensed gun dealer.

The Tiahrt amendment prohibits the ATF from releasing firearm trace data for use by researchers, litigants and members of the public.

Policy Position: The Staten Island Democratic Association supports the establishment of a computerized registry of firearm ownership and to allow firearm trace data to be used by researchers, litigants and members of the public.

Assault-Style Weapons and High-Capacity Magazines

The Assault Weapons Ban, which was a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, prohibited the manufacture, transfer, or possession of semiautomatic assault weapons, as defined by the Act. The Act also prohibited the transfer and possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices that accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition. It allowed for possession and transfer of semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that "were otherwise lawfully possessed on the date of enactment", September 13, 1994.

The Assault Weapons Ban expired on September 13, 2004.

In the 10 years prior to the assault weapons ban going into effect there were 19 mass shooting incidents, defined as six or more people shot and killed. The number of mass shooting declined to 12 during the ten years the ban was in effect. The number of mass shootings increased by 183% to 34 during the ten years after the ban expired.

In the fourteen years since the assault-weapons ban expired, up until the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, there have been twelve mass shootings (six or more people shot and killed), where the gunman used a semi-automatic rifle. These mass shootings have resulted in 237 killed and 1,379 wounded.

There have been twenty mass shootings since the ban on high capacity magazines expired where a semi-automatic handgun was used. Many models of semi-automatic handguns accept high-capacity magazines. These twenty mass shootings have resulted in 202 deaths and 123 wounded.

Policy Position: The Staten Island Democratic Association supports legislation to ban the manufacture or transfer of semiautomatic assault-style weapons. A semi-automatic assault-style weapon shall be defined as any rifle built using the AR-15 or related platform that fires a single round for each pull of the trigger, automatically reloading in between each shot until the ammo is depleted.

The Staten Island Democratic Association supports legislation to ban the manufacturer, transfer or possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices that accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Concealed Carry

There is an initiative in Washington to allow someone who has a concealed carry permit to carry in one state, to be allowed to legally conceal carry in all fifty states.

States, cities and localities have different requirements for obtaining a concealed carry permit. Allowing someone from one state to conceal carry in another state, city or locality would reduce the concealed carry requirements for all states, cities or localities to the state with the less stringent requirements.

Policy Position: The Staten Island Democratic Association opposes any legislation that would require states to allow someone with a concealed carry permit in one state, to be allowed to conceal carry in all fifty states.

Reporting Lost and Stolen Weapons

There are between 300,000 and 600,000 weapons stolen every year in the U.S. Many of these weapons find their way into the hands of criminals.

Under federal law only licensed gun dealers are required to report lost or stolen weapons to the ATF within 48 hours of discovery.

Policy Position: The Staten Island Democratic Association supports legislation to require all gun owners to report a lost or stolen weapon to the ATF within 48 hours of discovery and to hold the gun owner criminally liable for failing to notify the ATF with the 48 hours.

 ###

 Back to home page