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By Brady Law's 30th Anniversary, It Has Stopped 2.2 Million Gun Buys

On November 30, 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, establishing a system of background checks for firearm purchasers. The Brady law, brought about a significant shift in the way firearms are bought and sold, The Trace reports. It originated from a 1981 assassination attempt when a man with a history of criminal convictions and severe mental illness shot President Ronald Reagan and his press secretary, James Brady. The attack left Brady paralyzed and prompted him and his wife, Sarah, to begin campaigning for a federal background check system. Before the law, federal law barred certain people from owning guns. They included minors, drug users, and people convicted of a felony or committed to a mental institution. There was no national system to verify whether a prospective gun buyer fell into one of those categories. While nearly two dozen states established their own background checks, in most of the U.S.,


Since the background check system came online in 1998, it has stopped millions of unlawful gun sales, but gun deaths have continued to increase. Not every gun seller is subject to the Brady Bill’s requirements, and lost and incomplete records mean some prohibited people still slip through. There have been 462,572,704 federal background checks. The number of checks per year has grown significantly, increasing by an average of 5 percent each year. In 2020, the number of NICS checks hit an all-time high of 39 million, up 40 percent from 2019. The increase reflects the record number of gun sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 2,266,746 federal background checks resulted in a denial because an FBI search indices turned up a record that legally disqualified the person from owning firearms. This does not include denials in states where state or local law enforcement handles the background checks. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that federal and state agencies combined had denied a total of 4.4 million firearm background check applications since 1994.

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