Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

WASHINGTON — U.S. senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York joined Senate Democrats Friday in introducing two bills to strengthen and expand background check requirements on the sale of firearms.

Gillibrand and Schumer co-sponsored the Background Check Completion Act, legislation that would require a completed background check for every gun buyer who purchases a gun from a federally-licensed gun dealer.

The legislation would close the current “Charleston loophole,” which allows gun sales to proceed if a background check is not completed within 72 hours, even if the gun buyer is not legally allowed to purchase a gun.

When a criminal background check indicates that a firearm purchaser may have a criminal record, the FBI tries to determine whether the purchaser can legally buy a gun. If this process takes longer than 72 hours, gun dealers can complete the sale. The provision was included in the original background check law over concerns that law-abiding citizens could be hindered in legally purchasing a firearm.

Gillibrand said the “dangerous gap has allowed thousands of gun sales” to prohibited buyers, including the sale of the handgun used by the shooter in the deadly 2015 attack at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

Gillibrand also reintroduced the Background Check Expansion Act, which would expand federal background checks to all gun sales, including by unlicensed or private sellers, whether they do business online, at gun shows or out of their home.

Under current federal law, unlicensed or private sellers are not required to conduct a background check prior to transferring a firearm and, according to Gillibrand, research indicates that as many as a quarter of all gun sales in the United States may occur without a background check.

In New York state, all gun transactions must be completed with the background check — in the case of a private sale, the two parties will often meet at a federally-licensed gun dealer’s place of business. But private sales in states like Pennsylvania don’t require a background check.

“The coronavirus outbreak has amplified the gun violence epidemic in our country and Congress must implement common-sense solutions to prevent more violence,” Gillibrand said. “Closing the dangerous ‘Charleston loophole’ and expanding background check requirements for all firearm sales are important steps that would prevent dangerous people from purchasing a weapon.”

Paul McQuillen, executive director of Gun Sense NY, said polls consistently show that up to 97% of Americans support expanded background checks, including 72% of NRA members.

Exceptions to the Background Check Expansion Act include transfers between law enforcement officers, temporarily loaning firearms for hunting and sporting events, providing firearms as gifts to immediate family members, transferring a firearm as part of an inheritance or temporarily transferring a firearm for immediate self-defense.

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