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Spanberger Helps Pass Bipartisan, Landmark Legislation to Require Background Checks on All Firearm Purchases

The Congresswoman Cosponsored the Bipartisan Bill, Which Would Improve Gun Safety & Keeps Guns Out of the Hands of Criminals, Terrorists, & Dangerously Mentally Ill Individuals

Washington, February 27, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today helped pass bipartisan gun safety legislation that would close existing background check loopholes and make sure individuals already prohibited from gun possession under federal law are unable to purchase firearms.

A 2017 U.S. Department of Justice report found that since the adoption of the federal background check requirement in 1994, more than 3 million individuals—primarily people convicted of felony crimes, fugitives, and those convicted of domestic abuse—have been legally denied a firearm transfer or permit. However, a 2013 report found that up to 80 percent of firearms used to participate in criminal activities are obtained without a background check, such as in cases of unlicensed gun transfers.

Spanberger is a cosponsor of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which would require background checks on all gun sales or transfers, with a few exceptions. The bill, which passed out of the U.S. House today on a bipartisan vote, would limit unregulated secondary firearm sales, which could reduce the rate of unlicensed firearms trafficking.

“As a former federal law enforcement agent who carried a firearm every day on the job, I understand the responsibility of gun ownership. After far too many gun violence tragedies across the United States, including in our schools, offices, and places of worship, we are long overdue for bipartisan gun safety reform,” said Spanberger. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to prevent all gun violence, but this bipartisan bill is an important first step in making our communities safer. Criminals, terrorists, and those who are dangerously mentally ill should not have unfettered access to guns, and they certainly shouldn’t be able to circumvent the law simply by shopping online or attending a gun show. This bipartisan legislation would strengthen the safety our communities by requiring background checks on all firearms purchases and by closing internet and gun show loopholes. I’m proud to cosponsor and help pass this commonsense bill to prevent future tragedies and begin to address this true public health crisis.”

According to a December 2018 report, gun violence is now the second-leading cause of death among young people.

Under federal law, licensed gun dealers are required to conduct background checks on gun purchasers and transferees. However, individuals purchasing firearms are not currently required to complete a background check if purchasing a gun from an unlicensed seller—including online, person-to-person, or at a gun show.

Currently, only federally-licensed points of sale are required to conduct a background check before selling a firearm. The Spanberger-backed Bipartisan Background Checks Act would apply this same standard to all would-be gun sellers. The legislation includes reasonable exceptions that would allow a person to give a gun as a gift to a family member, provide a gun in cases of immediate self-defense, and loan a firearm for hunting purposes.

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act is led by U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA-05) and Peter King (R-NY-02). Earlier this month, the bill passed out of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, where it was the first major gun safety legislation to pass out of the Committee in several decades.

Spanberger is a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which was established in Congress after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

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