Gun Control:

Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act

GGD-96-22: Published: Jan 25, 1996. Publicly Released: Jan 25, 1996.

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GAO reviewed the implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, focusing on the: (1) extent to which the waiting period and background checks required for handgun purchases have prevented ineligible persons from legally purchasing handguns; (2) extent to which denials have resulted in follow-up enforcement actions against those submitting false purchase information; and (3) effects of various legal challenges to the Brady Act.

GAO found that: (1) of the law enforcement agencies surveyed, handguns were denied to about 4.3 percent of applicants; (2) application denials varied by jurisdiction because law enforcement officials did not use standardized criteria for their decisions; (3) most denials resulted from misdemeanor warrants or administrative reasons, such as gun dealers, sending applications to the wrong law enforcement agency; (4) in four jurisdictions, 4.9 percent of denials resulted from convictions or indictments for violent crimes, such as aggravated assault, murder, rape, or robbery; (5) most law enforcement officers relied solely on criminal history records in conducting their background checks because no other information sources were available, but some officers routinely checked for mental history disqualifications; (6) the number of Brady Act prosecutions was relatively small due to the low priority of follow-up enforcement actions at the Department of Justice (DOJ); (7) federal officials believe that the Brady Act is achieving its primary goal of preventing felons from legally purchasing handguns; (8) the effects of legal challenges to the Brady Act will not be known until all appeals are decided; and (9) DOJ believes that it lacks the authority to take action against law enforcement officers who do not conduct background checks.

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