Rep. Valerie Longhurst will introduce legislation attempting to end a loophole in gun sales.
Delaware Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, announced her intention to introduce legislation to end a gun sale loophole, which she outlined in an open letter to U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Congressman John Carney.
Federal statute allows gun dealers to complete a sale if a background check has not been processed within three business days, allowing someone who might be prohibited from owning a gun to make a purchase.
Longhurst said the reason for delay usually is because there’s a red flag on the individual’s background check—a cause for concern if a potentially dangerous person is able to purchase a gun, who otherwise would be denied to proceed.
“These “delayed transactions” (or “default proceeds”) jeopardize public safety, and they create a problem for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which must then deploy officers to retrieve any guns that were sold to a person who later was determined to be prohibited from possessing a firearm,” the House Majority Leader wrote in the letter.
Longhurst notes that the FBI reports between 2010 and 2014 there were 15,729 gun sale transactions to ineligible individuals during the delayed transaction period. According to the FBI, investigations into whether an ineligible person has been sold a gun by default takes about 25 days.
“Last year, nine people were murdered in a mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C. church. The suspected gunman legally purchased the firearm used in the killings through the delayed transaction loophole after a background check took longer than three days,” Longhurst wrote.
“Had there been a law in place to require that he pass a background check before obtaining a gun, the sale would have been denied due to a drug conviction.”
After receiving the letter, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, issued a statement addressing the gun violence concerns.
“I do share her concerns, and as she rightly points out, we only need to look at last year’s horrific shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, to see the terrible risks of loopholes like this post to our communities,” he said.
“There is a recent proposal in the U.S. Senate to close the loophole Rep. Longhurst is concerned by, and I am strongly considering supporting it. I believe that only responsible gun owners should have access to firearms, and that is always my perspective when reviewing gun safety proposals.”
The Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence released a statement in support of Longhurst’s legislation following her announcement.
“Unfortunately, we can’t count on Congress to protect our communities from individuals who can still buy guns without a proper background check. If we’re going to vet all gun sales that has to mean every sale—without exception,” said George Higgins, executive director of the coalition.
“We have no argument with the Second Amendment. But most Americans, including gun owners, also favor strict regulation of gun purchases. A leak-proof system of background checks—that’s just common sense.”
This is not the first piece of legislation to be introduced by Longhurst that attempts to close loopholes in the transaction of gun sales.
In 2013, legislation introduced by Longhurst was passed to ensure a criminal history background check be performed with the sale or transfer of all firearms. Previously, when the sale or transfer didn’t involve a licensed dealer a background check wasn’t required.
In 2011, legislation introduced by Longhurst was passed to authorize state agencies to provide information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System about mentally ill individuals.
Most background checks happen almost immediately, according to the NICS. But 8 percent are delayed for further research. It is that percentage of potential buyers Longhurst said she’s concerned about. Still, she said she expects to receive backlash from National Rifle Association.
“They’re going to [say] it’s their 2nd Amendment right,” Longhurst said.
“It’s not the law abiding citizens I’m worried about. It’s that percent that are taking so long to get back. Then the ATF has to go out and try to retrieve the gun, and who knows what will happen in that time the person has the gun?”
She said she’s already received support from other Delaware representatives and senators who have said they’ll back her legislation.
“This is a no brainer piece of legislation and anybody that values public safety would be encouraged to sign on to this bill,” Longhurst said.