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The Background Check Acts of 2019

The Background Check Acts of 2019




Current federal law (the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act) requires Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL’s - or gun dealers licensed by the ATF) to initiate background checks prior to selling a firearm. Brady background checks have been successful in preventing dangerous individuals from buying guns, but the system must be expanded to reflect the increasing availability of guns at gun shows and on the internet.

Approximately 1 in every 5 gun sales are conducted without a background check today, because background checks are not required of private transactions such as those at gun shows, and through online websites like that facilitate gun sales. These unregulated sales allow felons, domestic abusers, and other prohibited people to obtain guns without any oversight.


The 1968 Gun Control Act prohibited categories of individuals from gun possession, including felons, fugitives from justice, unlawful users of controlled substances, some domestic violence abusers, those dishonorably discharged from the military, among others.

The Brady Law provided the enforcement mechanism for this law by requiring background checks for firearm sales through licensed gun dealers, improving and computerizing criminal record histories, and creating the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Since the Brady Law was enacted in 1994, over 3 million prohibited sales have been denied.


On February 27, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, introduced by Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Peter King (R-NY).  S. 42, the Background Check Expansion Act – the companion bill to H.R. 8 – was introduced by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and is now pending in the U.S. Senate.  

Exceptions to the Background Check Requirement:

  1. A law enforcement agency or officer, armed private security professional, or member of the armed forces, while acting within the scope of their employment and official duties
  2. A transfer between spouses, domestic partners, between parents and their children, between siblings, between aunts or uncles and their nieces or nephews, or between grandparents and their grandchildren.
  3. A transfer to an executor, administrator, trustee, or personal representative of an estate or a trust that occurs by operation of law upon the death of another person
  4. A temporary transfer that is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm, if the possession by the transferee lasts only as long as immediately necessary to prevent the imminent death or great bodily harm
  5. A transfer approved by the U.S. Attorney General under section 5812 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986
  6. a temporary transfer if the transferor has no reason to believe that the transferee will use or intends to use the firearm in a crime or is prohibited from possessing firearms under State or Federal law, and the transfer takes place and the transferee's possession of the firearm is exclusively—
    • at a shooting range or in a shooting gallery or other area designated for the purpose of target shooting;
    • while reasonably necessary for the purposes of hunting, trapping, or fishing, if the transferor—
      • has no reason to believe that the transferee intends to use the firearm in a place where it is illegal; and
      • has reason to believe that the transferee will comply with all licensing and permit requirements for such hunting, trapping, or fishing; or
    • while in the presence of the transferor.
  1. 42, the Background Check Expansion Act, was introduced in the U.S. Senate in January 2019, with 41 original cosponsors, and has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. If enacted, this bill would expand the current law to virtually all firearm transactions, subject to the exceptions listed above. We urge the Senate to to make passing this legislation in its original, clean form, a priority.


For additional information, please contact IACLEA Director of Government & External Relations, Altmann Pannell, at or (202) 618-8118.


Photo Credit: © Mike Ritter 

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