Connecticut’s U.S. Senators called for stricter gun laws Monday, demanding that gun dealers across the country refuse to sell the hardware before a background check is completed.
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy were two of the lawmakers who signed a letter to three major gun retailers, asking them to close a loophole that allows them to complete a sale before they get a thumbs up on the background check.
Under current federal law, gun sales can proceed without an approved background check, if that check is not completed within three days of an attempted purchase.
According to Blumenthal and Murphy, gun dealers wondering what they would have to do to comply with the legislation should look no further than the largest gun retailer in the country, Wal-Mart. Since 2002, Wal-Mart has required a completed background check in order to approve a gun sale.
“No check, no sale. It’s as simple as that,” Blumenthal said Monday at a Hartford press conference.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that since 2010, between 2,500 and 4,000 guns per year are sold to people who are later found to be prohibited from owning a firearm. Those who are prohibited from possessing firearms include convicted criminals, drug abusers, and people who have suffered from mental illnesses.
“If background checks are taking more than three days, it’s usually because that person has a complicated criminal history,” Murphy said. “It’s exactly that kind of person that we want to stop from buying a gun, someone whose background checks take a longer period of time.”
Past evaluations from the FBI show that the bureau was likely thinking along the same lines as Murphy — that when it comes to extra-long background checks, the purchasers are likely to misuse the weapon. The first report from the bureau on the subject, which was released in 1999, shows that someone whose background check takes more than the typical 24 hours is 20 times as likely to fall into a category that would make them prohibited from purchasing the weapon.
According to Murphy, this likelihood is heightened due to the fact that criminals looking to purchase guns will often seek out retailers with lax rules and less oversight to complete their purchase.
The push for gun sale reform comes in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina shooting that took the lives of nine people inside an Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The shooter, who has an alleged record of drug abuse, would not have been able to purchase the gun if the legislation was in place, Blumenthal and Murphy said.
“We know that if there hadn’t been a gun sale without demanding to see a background check, there would likely still be people alive in South Carolina today,” Murphy said.
The letter is addressed to three gun retailers: Cabela’s, EZ Pawn, and Bass Pro Shops. While federal law allows gun retailers to take advantage of the three-day loophole, state law in Connecticut requires dealers within the state to complete a background check before going through with the transaction.
Blumenthal said he thinks that one reason why more consumers haven’t demanded their local gun retailers tighten up the loophole is because there “isn’t a lot of awareness” surrounding the issue. Together with Murphy, the two lawmakers were among 13 Democratic senators to sign the letter addressed to the retailers and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which also is located in Connecticut.
“We’re asking them to weigh the small inconvenience against a handful of gun purchases, against the lives that would be saved if they hadn’t been sold the gun after three days with a background check still pending,” Murphy said.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who also attended Monday’s press conference, co-sponsored a bill that would require a background check to be completed before a sale is finalized. The House bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Blumenthal and Murphy came close to altering federal gun laws in 2013, less than a year after the massacre of 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The measure fell four votes short of the super majority they needed to start debate.