Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013, a commonsense bill that would require an instant background check for the sale of gun ammunition. In conjunction with introducing the bill, Blumenthal held a conference call with Brian Malte, legislative director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Both organizations support the bill.
Currently, it is illegal to sell both firearms and ammunition to certain groups, including felons, fugitives, drug addicts, the mentally ill, and domestic violence perpetrators. However, background checks are required for the sale of firearms, but not required for the sale of ammunition. The Ammunition Background Check Act would close this loophole by requiring all buyers of ammunition to undergo an instant background check under the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System (NICS).
“I’m very, very proud that this measure has been endorsed by both the Brady Campaign and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence,” Blumenthal said. “Our goal is to stop ammunition purchases by criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill – people who are already barred by law, but exploit the gaping loophole that background checks will close.The number of Americans who support background checks on firearm and ammunition purchases is overwhelming – approximately 90 percent support background checks for the sale of firearms and approximately 80 percent support background checks for the sale of ammunition. This measure is a very simple, commonsense proposal that should be common ground for both sides of the gun violence debate. In fact, yesterday at the legislative hearing in Connecticut many of the speakers who opposed other measures believed strongly that we should enforce existing laws more effectively. And this measure addresses that need very directly.”
“We know that the shooter in Aurora who killed 12 people and injured 58 more had an estimated 6,000 rounds of ammunition he bought from online retailers. There’s something seriously wrong with this picture, and we need to do something,” Malte said. “We must require background checks on all ammunition purchases. Senator Blumenthal’s bill is a commonsense approach; it will keep ammunition out of the hands of dangerous people. Ammunition and guns must be treated the same. Law enforcement knows this, and the public knows this.”
“I’m sure I don’t need to remind people of the 100,000 Americans who are shot every year, and the 30,000 who die as a result of gun violence. The need to finally look at this epidemic in a comprehensive and intelligent manner is long past due. This legislation is one more thoughtful, smart, and effective step to doing that,” Thomas said. “This legislation is also a really important tool for law enforcement. This legislation is one way to empower law enforcement to do their job and ensure they have the information they need.”
The Ammunition Background Check Act would also reestablish recordkeeping and reporting requirements on ammunition sales. Prior to the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act, sellers of ammunition had to track their inventory and keep records of their customers. The Ammunition Background Check Act restores these requirements so law enforcement can ensure that sellers are complying with the law and can use seller records to solve gun crimes. The legislation also requires sellers of ammunition to report to law enforcement when a purchaser buys more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition or when a large quantity of ammunition is stolen.
In addition, the legislation bans Teflon-coated bullets and incendiary ammunition. The current federal ban on armor-piercing ammunition exempts certain kinds of Teflon-coated bullets, as well as incendiary ammunition designed to ignite or explode on contact. Both of these kinds of ammunition can defeat body armor, and pose a grave danger to law enforcement officials.
Background checks have worked in many cases to keep firearms from falling into the wrong hands. According to the FBI, over the last decade, more than 100 million background checks have been run on firearm purchases. The vast majority of background checks took about 30 seconds. Approximately 700,000 people were blocked from purchasing guns – including felons, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill.
Under the Ammunition Background Check Act, federally licensed gun dealers could simply use their existing system to run checks on purchasers of ammunition (either electronically or by telephone), and sellers of ammunition who are not federal licensees could continue to sell simply by conducting a background check through an existing licensee or by getting a federal license.