We are seeking improvements in the reporting of prohibited names to background check systems, with an emphasis on violent criminals and people found to be a danger to themselves or others. Our objectives include:
- Reporting which states have applied for and received federal grant money for reporting purposes.
- Urging state governments to issue an annual report on their participation and progress in reporting such names to the state and/or federal system(s).
- Analyzing state reports or lack of state information.
- Supporting a congressional effort to shift from a policy to a legal requirement in the Department of Defense to report prohibited names to the background check system.
- Advocating for states to clear any backlogs in the background check system (e.g. the 55,000 convicted felons in Virginia since 2000).
Fingerprinting Prior to Gun Sales
Safer Country is advocating for systems that ensure that prohibited parties are prevented from acquiring firearms. Fingerprinting is already working in a number of states to reduce gun homicides.
According to Politifact, Daniel W. Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, cited the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as finding that “fingerprint-verified handgun purchaser licensing have much lower rates of gun homicide than those that do not.”
This excerpt from an article in The Trace explains the issue more fully.
Under federal law, … only buyers of particularly destructive weapons — such as machine guns — must undergo fingerprinting. At least six states have extended this to also include purchases of handguns. But in Illinois, as in most of the country, handgun buyers are checked just through basic biographical and descriptive information.
“It’s a massive hole,” said Mark Jones, a former agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who is senior policy director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence in Chicago. “The question is: How many guns slip through it? There’s so much opacity it’s difficult to understand the scale.”
Though little research has been done on how many prohibited gun owners pass a background check for lack of fingerprint checks, research regarding employment and occupational licensing checks has found that records often are missed when checks are based on just a name and biographical information.
“Fingerprints would improve the accuracy of the system. We know that, so why aren’t we doing it?” said Joseph Vince Jr., who previously ran the ATF’s Crime Gun Analysis Branch and is a criminal justice professor at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland.
— Illinois Lawmakers Want to Fingerprint Gun Buyers, Brian Freskos, April 11, 2019