Rep. Bass Speaks on Closing the Charleston Gun Loophole
February 28, 2019
WASHINGTON - Today, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, delivered the below remarks in support of legislation which would close the Charleston Loophole, which currently allows gun dealers to sell a firearm to dangerous individuals if the FBI background check has not been completed within three business days.
I support H.R. 1112, the “Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019,” as a common-sense measure to improve the current firearms background check system and to save lives.
Twenty-five years ago today, we began implementation of the Brady Background Checks Act. The system it employs to run background checks on those seeking to purchase firearms from licensed gun dealers has made us safer.
Now it is time to address the circumstances in which the FBI needs additional time to investigate information relating to a prospective purchaser when the records may not be immediately clear as to whether someone is legally allowed to purchase a firearm.
Under current law, after 3 days a gun dealer has the discretion to sell a gun to a purchaser if the system has not given a green light to the sale when, after three business days have passed without a denial being issued by the system. In these circumstances, it is the choice of the dealer as to whether to proceed with the sale, which we call a “default proceed,” or whether to wait for the check to be completed.
The results of such a choice were tragic in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, when a young man filled with hate shot and killed nine worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. The gun used in this murder had been transferred by a gun dealer to the shooter, even though the check had not been completed by the FBI but which would have resulted in a denial had the check been finished.
This is not an isolated incident. Since 1994, gun sellers proceeded with between 3,000 and 4,000 “default proceed” sales per year. Analyzing data provided by the Department of Justice, one study found that such sales are eight times more likely to involve a prohibited purchaser than other background checks. In 2017 alone, “default proceed” sales accounted for more than 4,800 transfers to purchasers who were prohibited from owning firearms. The FBI reported that in 2007 and 2008, in cases a licensed seller sold a firearm through “default proceed” transfers, approximately 22% of the individuals investigated were legally prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
The additional time provided by H.R. 1112 is not too much to ask so that we may help prevent tragedies, such as the Charleston shooting, from happening.
That is why I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill today.