U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Presale Firearm Checks

FEBRUARY 25, 1997       202/633-3047


186,000 Blocked from March 1994 through June 1996

     WASHINGTON, D.C. -- During the first 28
months of the Brady Act's effectiveness (March
1994 through last June) more than 186,000 illegal
over-the-counter gun sales were blocked by
background checks, the Justice Department's Bureau
of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.  Of
the average 6,600 attempts stopped each month,
more than 70 percent were rejected because they
were indicted or convicted as felons.  The data
refer only to attempted purchases from licensed
firearms dealers and do not indicate whether
rejected purchasers later obtained a gun.
     Based on BJS statistics covering specifically
January 1996 through June 1996, gun dealers made
more than 1.3 million inquiries about the
potential eligibility of potential handgun buyers. 
The data contained specific reasons for
rejections.  Approximately 34,000, or 2.6 percent,
were rejected for the following reasons in percentages:
          Convicted or indicted felon . . . . 72%
          Fugitive . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
          State law prohibition . . . . . . .  4
          Restraining order . . . . . . . . .  2
          Mental illness or disability  . . .  1
          Other*  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 
          *Includes people addicted to illegal 
          drugs, juveniles, aliens, violators of
          local ordinances, etc.

     As of mid-year 1996, 14 states reported that
their presale investigations included checking for
outstanding restraining orders, and 11 states
looked into mental heath records.  The report
noted that not all states check the categories of
mental disability, restraining orders or drug
abuse.  In states that do check for these
conditions, rejection rates are higher for these
     The surveys were of 600 law enforcement
agencies, of which 176 from 44 states responded. 
Using standard statistical techniques, the totals
were adjusted to account for the non-responding
states.  BJS is continuing its efforts to obtain a
more complete response rate.
     The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
(the Brady Act) provides that presale inquiries
will be made permanent through the National Instant 
Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which will 
be administered by the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation.  It is to be established by
November 1998, when the waiting period of the current 
system will be eliminated.   
     When the Brady Act took effect in February
1994, there were an average 3,100 monthly gun
application rejections in the 32 states that the act 
required to follow its presale review procedures.  
From March 1994 through last June 30 there were 86,000 
rejections of about 4.2 million applications or inquiries.
     Federal law prohibits firearm sales to a
person who--
     * is under indictment for a crime
       punishable by imprisonment for more than
       one year or has been convicted of such a
     * is a fugitive from justice,
     * is an unlawful user of a controlled
     * has been adjudicated as mentally
       defective or has been committed to a
       mental institution,
     * was dishonorably discharged from the
       armed forces,
     * has renounced United States citizenship,
     * is subject to a court order restraining
       him or her from harassing, stalking or
       threatening an intimate partner or a
       child, or
     * is a person who has been convicted of
       domestic violence.

The bulletin, "Presale Firearm Checks" (NCJ-162787), was 
written by Don Manson, of BJS, and Gene Lauver, of
the Regional Justice Information Service.  The
statistics were obtained from the Treasury
Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 
(March 1, 1994 through December 31, 1995) and from a 
BJS survey (January 1, 1996 through June 30, 1996).

The report is available on the Internet on
BJS's Internet home page by clicking on "What's
new at BJS."  The BJS webpage address is: 

                       # # #

After hours contact:  Stu Smith at 301/983-9354 
Date Published: February 2, 1997