April 15, 2013
Ladd Everitt, (202) 701-7171,  leveritt@csgv.org  
Washington, DC-The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) supports the bipartisan amendment on background checks introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-VA). The amendment is not universal background check legislation, but it would significantly expand background checks, regulating all privates sales of firearms made at gun shows and through websites. It would also establish a program of incentives and penalties aimed at encouraging the states to provide additional disqualifying records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) used to screen gun buyers. The legislation  does  contains language added by the gun lobby that would do little or nothing to enhance public safety, but on the whole, we believe the Toomey-Manchin amendment is a positive reform that will save many lives.

The amendment significantly expands background checks on gun purchasers:

  • Closes the €œGun Show Loophole. €
    • Currently, unlicensed individuals can sell firearms at gun shows without conducting background checks or maintaining records of sale.
    • The Toomey-Manchin amendment mandates that background checks must be conducted for firearms transferred at any event where 75 or more guns are being sold.
  • Regulates guns sold through internet or print advertisements.
    • The bill mandates that if there is any advertisement, posting or display concerning the weapon being sold, then a background check must be conducted.
  • Establishes strong recordkeeping procedures and tough criminal penalties for violations.
    • Maintains longstanding, existing system for keeping records of firearm sales. These records will be kept by federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) who process background checks for private sellers.

The amendment contains provisions to improve state reporting of disqualifying records to NICS.

  • Clarifies that records from federal courts can be entered into NICS.
  • Affirms that entering disqualifying mental health records into NICS does not violate HIPPA.
  • The bill authorizes $100,000,000 in funding to states per year from 2014-2017 to support efforts to report records to the NICS database.
  • Establishes penalties for states who do not implement automated reporting of records within four years by withholding federal funding for criminal justice systems. These penalties (10% for the first year, 11% for the second year, 13% for the third year and 15% for the fourth year) are stronger than previous penalties for not reporting to the system (previous penalties ranged from no more than 3-4%) under the NICS Improvement Act of 2007.

The gun lobby was able to add some harmful provisions to the amendment, including:

  • The Toomey-Manchin amendment does  not  require background checks for all private sales. The lack of universal background checks gives prohibited purchasers (convicted felons, those under domestic abuse restraining orders, etc.) channels to purchase firearms privately with no accountability from family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and even strangers.
  • The length of time the FBI has to hold up a sale based on inconclusive or incomplete results on a background check at a gun show is shortened from 72 hours to 48 hours for the first four years and then to 24 hours after that.
  • Dealers will be allowed to sell handguns outside of their state of residence as long as they comply with the laws of the state they are in and the state that the purchaser is from. Current law in this area only pertains to sales of long guns.
  • Grants immunity from civil liability suits to private sellers at gun shows as long as they conduct background checks on purchasers.
  • Force states to develop programs to restore gun purchasing/ownership rights to those who have been adjudicated because of a mental health disqualifier or lose certain federal funding.

There is no doubt that the Toomey-Machin amendment was the product of serious, hard negotiations. While it does not contain everything we would have hoped for, and leaves important future work to be done in establishing  truly  universal background checks, CSGV believes it is a positive and necessary step forward for our country.

That said, this is where we will hold the line. Victims and survivors of gun violence have compromised enough in advocating for policies to protect our communities. And they have waited far too many decades for meaningful change. Attempts by the gun lobby and their Republican allies in Congress to further water down gun violence prevention will be met with determined resistance by our coalition and its supporters in the day ahead.

The  Coalition to Stop Gun Violence  seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.

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