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Greenstein Bill to Expand Background Checks for Gun Sales Advances Out of Budget and Appropriations Committee

Senator Greenstein at a Get Covered America Press Conference

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Law and Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Linda R. Greenstein that would require a licensed retail dealer to complete a background check before any handgun, rifle, shotgun or antique cannon can be sold, given, transferred, assigned or disposed of by an individual passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.

“This is common-sense legislation that everyone, including all responsible gun owners, should support. It ensures that people who should not be allowed to obtain a firearm will not be able to do just that in New Jersey,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Requiring a dealer to do a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) will make it harder in our state for firearms to get into the wrong hands.”

In addition to requiring licensed dealers to use NICS, the dealer must submit proof of the background check to the Superintendent of the State Police. The dealer would be required to keep on-site a record of all completed transactions so law enforcement officials can see them on request.

The bill, S-2374, also would define “immediate family” member, for purpose of transactions who are exempt from the background check requirement, as a spouse, domestic partner, partner in a civil union, parent, stepparent, grandparent, sibling, stepsibling, child, stepchild and grandchild.

NICS was mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and has been operable since 1998. The system is used by Federal Firearms Licensees to instantly determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to purchase firearms. Ninety-two percent of NICS checks receive an instant verdict, but if NICS cannot complete a background check and reach a verdict within three days, the firearm is allowed to be sold.

New Jersey has created its own NICS programs. Between 2010 and 2015, roughly 490,000 firearm background checks were completed using the NICS in New Jersey.

“This bill puts a level of responsibility on the seller which is very important in today’s society,” said Senator Greenstein.

Federal law requires a background check for all firearm sales and pawn redemptions by federally licensed gun dealers. But background checks are not required under federal law for intrastate firearm transfers between private parties, person-to-person or at gun shows. One out of five gun sales are estimated to occur in “no questions asked” transactions, often over the Internet or at gun shows. A 2017 study estimated that 42 percent of U.S. gun owners acquired their most recent purchase without a background check.

From 2009 to 2012, states that required background checks on all handgun sales or permits had 35 percent fewer gun deaths per capita than states without that background check requirement. States with background checks have 63 percent fewer mass shootings by individuals who are prohibited from possessing guns and 64 percent fewer mass shootings involving domestic violence.

Additionally, states with comprehensive background check laws experience 48 percent less gun trafficking, 38 percent fewer deaths of women shot by intimate partners and 17 percent fewer firearms involved in aggravated assaults, per capita.

Nine states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington – plus the District of Columbia, require universal background checks at the point of sale for all sales and transfers of all classes of firearms, whether they are purchases from a licensed dealer or an unlicensed seller, as proposed under this bill.

The bill was released from committee by a vote of 10-0-2 and moves to the full Senate for further consideration.