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Tell Congress: Pass the Background Check Expansion Act

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“Gun sales should not happen without background checks. Pass the Background Check Expansion Act.”

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    Tell Congress: Pass the Background Check Expansion Act

    Within hours of last Tuesday’s attack in New York City, Donald Trump and his extremist, racist colleagues in Congress were demonizing the attacker and using the tragedy to ramp up their campaign of fear and hate against Muslims and immigrants.

    This week’s heartbreaking massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas and last month’s deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas killed more people than the attack in New York. But Trump and his NRA-beholden colleagues are refusing, as they always do, to acknowledge that the majority of mass shooters are white men, talk about our epidemic of gun violence or lift a finger to slow it down or stop it.

    Fortunately, gun control champions are using every means at their disposal to keep the pressure on Republicans. Connecticut Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal recently introduced the Background Check Expansion Act, which would require background checks for all gun sales.2

    Tell Congress: Pass the Background Check Expansion Act.

    In 1993, Congress passed the Brady Bill, which required federally licensed gun retailers to run a background check for every gun purchase. Since then, Brady has prevented more than 3 million gun sales to people who are prohibited purchasers (because they have committed a felony or domestic abuse or have a mental illness that makes them a danger to themselves or others).3 It should have kept the Texas gunman from purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer, but the Air Force did not enter his domestic violence crime into the federal background check database. Unfortunately, Brady does not apply to sales at gun shows and sales made through the internet, which means that the Texas gunman could have bought his weapons at a gun show if he had failed his background check.

    It is a loophole with major consequences. While some states have tightened their background check laws, others only rely on Brady. In the states with tighter controls, only 26 percent of sales happen with no background check. In the others, more than 57 percent do.4 This discrepancy means that every state is subject to the weaker laws, since people can buy guns in states with weaker laws and bring them into states with stricter ones.

    Sens. Murphy and Blumenthal have been trying to pass the Background Check Expansion Act and close these Brady loopholes at the federal level since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Americans, no matter their party affiliation, are consistently and overwhelmingly supportive of background checks.5 But the bill has not moved in Congress because the NRA fights any attempt to stop gun violence and has bought the allegiance of the Republican Party.

    Republicans in Congress – who have fought for years to block any legislation that would protect Americans from gun violence – were once again quick to offer their “thoughts and prayers” in response to the latest tragedy in Texas. But thoughts and prayers are not enough to keep weapons of war out of dangerous hands and begin to address our country’s horrific gun violence epidemic.

    Tell Congress to pass the Background Check Expansion Act.

    Sens. Murphy and Blumenthal know they face the same uphill fight this time around, but they are still demanding their colleagues act. As Sen. Murphy noted last night following the Texas tragedy (emphasis ours):

    My heart breaks for Sutherland Springs. Just like it still does for Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Charleston. And Aurora. And Blacksburg. And Newtown. Just like it does every night for Chicago. And New Orleans. And Baltimore. And Bridgeport. The terrifying fact is that no one is safe so long as Congress chooses to do absolutely nothing in the face of this epidemic. The time is now for Congress to shed its cowardly cover and do something.6

    Breaking the NRA’s chokehold on Congress will require massive grassroots pressure on our elected officials, demanding that they deliver more than thoughts and prayers in the face of our epidemic of gun violence.

    Tell Congress to pass the Background Check Expansion Act.


    1. Ana Radelat, "Murphy introduces background-check gun bill as ‘long-haul strategy,'" The Connecticut Mirror, Oct. 25, 2017.
    2. Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, "Background checks," accessed Nov. 1, 2017.
    3. Kate Masters and Lois Beckett, "Just one in five Americans obtains gun without background check, survey finds," The Guardian, Jan. 2, 2017.
    4. Hannah Fingerhut, "5 facts about guns in the United States," Pew Research Center, Jan. 5, 2016.
    5. Sen. Chris Murphy, "Murphy Statement on Sutherland Springs Shooting,” Nov. 5, 2017.