July 28, 2015

In Wake Of Tragic Charleston Shooting, Kaine Calls On Firearm Dealers To Cease Gun Sales Until Background Check Is Complete, Stop Default Sales If Check Is Pending Beyond 72 Hours

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and 12 of his Senate colleagues urged gun dealers to stop selling firearms to people who do not first pass a background check. When a criminal background check indicates that a firearm purchaser may have a criminal record, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tries to determine whether the purchaser can legally buy a gun. If this process takes longer than 72 hours, gun dealers can complete the sale even though there is a heightened risk that the purchaser is a criminal or otherwise dangerous.

A growing number of firearms dealers—including WalMart, the country’s largest—do not allow these “default sales.” In the letter sent to Cabela’s, EZ Pawn, and Bass Pro Shops – three large firearms dealers that currently allow default sales – and the National Shooting and Sports Foundation, the Senators pointed out the serious, and potentially deadly, consequences, and urged the retailers to cease the practice of default sales.

“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 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.”

“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.”

“You have a duty to ensure that your products do not get into the hands of dangerous individuals like the Emanuel AME Church shooter…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.”

Joining Kaine as co-signers are U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mazie Hirono, Edward Markey, Robert Menendez, Chris Murphy, Jack Reed, Chuck Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse.

Full text of the letter below:

To Cabela’s, EZ Paw, Bass Pro Shops and the National Shooting and Sports Foundation,

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 2008, Walmart, the nation’s largest gun retailer, partnered with Mayors Against Illegal Guns and agreed not to transfer firearms without background checks, even if three days had passed. 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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