For Immediate Release

June 11, 2015

CONTACT:  Bridgett Frey (Van Hollen) – 202-225-5341

Josh Zembik (Blumenthal) – 202-224-6452

Laura Maloney (Murphy) – 202-228-1056

Samaia Hernandez (Esty) – 202-226-8959

Van Hollen, Blumenthal, Murphy, Esty Introduce Bill to Encourage Licensing Requirements for Handgun Purchases

Handguns Responsible for 90 percent of Gun Homicides Each Year – Background Checks Would Help Curb Violence

Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (all D-CT) introduced the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act of 2015. The legislation would crack down on violence by helping states develop and implement licensing programs for the purchase of handguns, a process that keeps guns out of the hands of individuals who would not pass a background check. To read a fact sheet on the bill, click here.

The bill is based on research published this afternoon by The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, which shows a clear link between requiring a license to purchase a handgun and a dramatic reduction in firearm homicides.  Their research found that Connecticut’s adoption of its handgun purchaser licensing law led to a 40 percent decrease in firearm homicide rates.  Earlier research found that Missouri’s repeal of its similar law led to a 25 percent increase in firearm homicide rates.

“Of the thousands of Americans murdered every single year by firearms, nearly 90 percent of those deaths occur with a handgun. With mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends dying every day because of guns, there is no question that gun violence is tearing at the fabric of our communities,” said Congressman Chris Van Hollen. “States require licenses to drive a car or even to fish in local rivers, so requiring a license to buy a deadly handgun is a commonsense step that could save countless lives. This legislation will help states develop responsible handgun licensing programs.”

“The evidence is clear: sensible handgun laws save lives. By encouraging states to adopt responsible handgun mandates, this measure makes life harder for dangerous criminals and safer for law-abiding gun owners and responsible gun dealers. All states require licenses to drive a car or hunt or fish – so why not handguns, which can kill? Requiring a license to purchase a deadly weapon is at least as important as requiring one to drive a car. This legislation should win broad, bipartisan support,”said Senator Richard Blumenthal.

“Today’s research shows that Connecticut’s gun safety laws are working to reduce gun violence and save lives. In Congress, it’s time to listen to the voices of the mothers and fathers, friends and loved ones who have to endure the pain of gun violence every single day. Permit-to-purchase requirements for all handguns keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those who would fail a background check, and our bill would help other states develop programs similar to ours here in Connecticut. The time is now for Congress to pass this commonsense gun safety bill, as well as comprehensive federal background checks legislation, to make our streets, our schools, and our communities safer,” said Senator Chris Murphy.

“In Connecticut, state leaders moved swiftly following the tragedy at Sandy Hook to enact bipartisan, commonsense laws that make our communities safer,” said Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty. “The legislation we are introducing today is a critical reform that will allow other states to adopt lifesaving licensing programs and prevent gun deaths. I’m proud to join Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, and Congressman Van Hollen to introduce this much-needed bill, which I urge my colleagues in Congress to support.”

In 2013, Maryland signed into law the Firearm Safety Act, which requires nearly every individual in the state to possess a valid license before he or she may purchase, rent, or receive a handgun.  But it is still far too easy for handguns to be trafficked in from states that don’t have these requirements.

“We commend Congressman Chris Van Hollen for introducing legislation to encourage states to enact life-saving handgun purchaser licensing measures,” said Vincent DeMarco, President of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence. “The handgun purchaser licensing law we enacted in Maryland in 2013 will work best when other states also implement this proven method to keep handguns out of the wrong hands.”

BACKGROUND

The Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act authorizes a grant program at the Department of Justice to encourage states to establish permit-to-purchase requirements for all handguns, including at gun shows and with private sellers. This grant would help offset the costs associated with the development, implementation, and evaluation of these programs. To be eligible, states must require individuals applying for a license to meet the following criteria:

  • provide proof they are at least 21 years old and a lawful resident of the United States;
  • apply for the license at a law enforcement agency within the state;
  • submit to a background investigation and criminal history check;
  • submit fingerprints and photographs with their application; and
  • be eligible to purchase a handgun pursuant to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

To read the full text, click here.