This morning at the Hartford Legislative Office Building, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced new legislation that would bar gun sales until background checks are complete. Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-5), Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe and Connecticut gun safety advocates also joined in the call for legislative action to end the dangerous practice of default sales if checks are pending beyond 72 hours.
The senseless killing of nine innocent people in Charleston, S.C. on June 17 was made possible because the alleged gunman was able to buy a gun without passing a background check. A “default to proceed” loophole in the Brady Handgun Violence Act allows gun retailers to proceed with a firearms sale after three days, if an applicant’s background check is still pending. While certain facts remain unknown, the FBI has acknowledged that a fully completed background check would have uncovered Dylann Roof’s prior arrest on a drug charge and his drug addiction, thereby barring him from purchasing the .45-caliber handgun with which he took nine lives.
A growing number of firearms dealers—including WalMart, the country’s largest—do not allow these “default sales,” and Connecticut laws already prohibit such sales. But with guns easily passing across borders, states like Connecticut remain vulnerable without strong federal action.
In August, Blumenthal, Murphy and 11 Senate colleagues sent a letter to Cabela’s, EZ Pawn, and Bass Pro Shops – three large firearms dealers that currently allow default sales – pointing out the serious, and potentially deadly, consequences, and urging the retailers to cease the practice of default sales. Despite repeated follow-up communication, none of the retailers responded, prompting Blumenthal and Murphy to proceed with legislative action.