By Maggie McCabe

During a record-breaking year with over 300 mass shootings killing or injuring over 1,800 people, many politicians including President Biden are pushing for stricter gun control laws. 

 

There have been 255 mass shootings, resulting in over 1449 people dead, in the United States since 2009. These statistics contribute to an overall gun homicide rate 25 times higher than other high-income nations. Additionally, one in three mass shooters illegally possessed their firearms. 

Democratic politicians are currently pushing for two major policy changes: eliminating the Charleston loophole and mandating universal background checks. 

The Charleston loophole refers to a technicality that allows a gun purchase to proceed without a background check if the check takes more than three days. Federal law requires a background check any time someone purchases a gun from a licensed firearms dealer. If that background check uncovers any potential disqualifier, such as a prior felony conviction, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System has three business days to conduct an investigation. After that three-day period, the gun sale can proceed by default even without a completed background check. 

In 2019 alone, 2,989 guns were sold to people who would not have passed the background check because they exhausted the three-day waiting period. This means that every day, eight people on average were receiving guns without background checks. 3% of background checks that are completed require more than three days, but do not get fully investigated because the three-day waiting period has passed. The FBI and National Instant Criminal Background Check System do not have enough time or resources to complete this many background checks in only three days. As part of eliminating the Charleston loophole, Democratic legislators are proposing to lengthen the three-day waiting period to ten days to ensure that the process is more effective at limiting gun purchases. 

Democrats are also proposing universal background checks. According to Everytown, a non-profit for gun safety, “Although current federal law requires background checks for all gun purchases by licensed gun dealers, it does not require background checks for guns sold by unlicensed sellers, online gun stores or at gun shows.” 

This loophole in the federal law is commonly known as the “gun show loophole.” This allows any person to purchase a gun from an unlicensed seller and have immediate access to it, without passing a background check. Today, 22% of guns purchased are completed without obtaining a background check. 

By subjecting everyone to a complete background check before purchasing a gun, mentally unfit and criminally involved people would be less able to purchase guns. 

There are currently two bills that have been passed by the House of Representatives that could help achieve these goals, H.R. 8: The Bipartisan Background Checks Act, and H.R. 1446: Enhanced Background Checks Act. 

Polls indicate that the vast majority of Americans support these changes to the law. A poll conducted in 2019 by Quinnipiac University found that 94% of Americans supported requiring background checks for all gun buyers. Even with bipartisan support from the general public, it is unclear whether Biden’s administration will be able to propel the bills into law due to the 50 Democrat to 50 Republican ratio of the Senate. Some Republicans do not support these changes because they believe that it is a violation of the Second Amendment. There is concern by conservative congressmen that increasing background checks will be a slippery slope that could lead to complete gun bans.

Despite the mass violence due to access to guns, it is unlikely there will be legislation to make a change.