Hartford, CT - In an effort spurred by consultations with law enforcement officials following the Newtown shootings last month on how to reduce gun-related violence, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today announced that he will introduce the Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013, legislation that would require instant background checks for the sale of gun ammunition. This legislation is one of several anti-gun violence proposals Blumenthal will introduce in the coming weeks and months.
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).
“Ammunition sales should be subject to the same legal requirements as firearm sales – instant background checks using the FBI’s national database. There is no rational reason why a person can walk into a store, fill their shopping cart with hundreds of rounds of ammo, pay up, and walk out without so much as giving their name. This proposal would close this ludicrous loophole,” Blumenthal said. “After the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, people in Newtown and across Connecticut have told me again and again: Please do something about gun violence. This legislation is one of several forthcoming proposals I will introduce to keep faith with them. The shootings at Sandy Hook have prompted national reflection and a call to action all around America. Now is the right time to ask what we can do to prevent future tragedies.”
Blumenthal added, “Ammunition is now the black hole in gun violence prevention. Felons, fugitives, domestic violence abusers, seriously mentally ill people – all are barred by law from buying ammunition and guns, but there are no checks for ammunition sales to enforce the law. Ammunition purchase background checks are a key common sense component of a comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence. Reporting large purchases of ammunition can alert law enforcement and enable proactive intervention. Large scale purchases of ammunition are the fuel often driving mass murders.”
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.