Encyclopedia of Gun Control and Gun Rights

By Glenn H. Utter | Go to book overview

B

Background Checks
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act went into effect on February 28, 1994. It mandated background checks of those intending to purchase a handgun. From March 1, 1994, when the act required background checks to begin in most states, through December 1996, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that approximately 7,782,000 presale checks were performed on people applying to purchase a handgun from federally licensed firearms dealers. Of that total, 173,000, or 2.2 percent of the total number of applicants, were not allowed to purchase a handgun. Nearly 68 percent of the rejections were associated with a felony conviction or current felony indictment. While gun control supporters lauded the results of checks, gun rights advocates focused on what they considered a small percentage of rejections.The Gun Control Act of 1968 specified that the following individuals be denied the opportunity to purchase a handgun:
1. juveniles (under 18 years old)
2. fugitives from justice
3. persons under indictment for, or already convicted of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year
4. persons unlawfully using controlled substances
5. persons legally determined to be mentally defective or committed to a mental institution
6. aliens illegally in the United States
7. persons dishonorably discharged from the armed forces
8. persons who have renounced U.S. citizenship
9. persons subject to a court order restraining them from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or a child
10. persons convicted of a felony or misdemeanor related to domestic violence

Thirty-two states were originally covered by the Brady law while the 18 remaining states (called Brady-alternative states) had their own legislation mandating background checks. By the end of 1996, nine additional states had enacted their own legislation, creating 23 Brady states and 27 Brady-alternative states. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that during 1996, the 32 original Brady states had a rejection rate of 3.6 percent while the original Brady-alternative states rejected 1.9 percent of applications, a statistically significant difference. The 23 current Brady states had a rejection rate of 3.1 percent while the current Brady-alternative states had a 2.5-percent rate, which was not statistically significant.

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