U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday that he will introduce a bill to require that instant background checks – the same kind performed at gun stores on people seeking to buy firearms – be required nationally for purchases of ammunition as well.
Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that his planned Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013 would be “relatively costless” because it would extend an existing database and checking procedure to ammunition – which he called “the necessary element for the killings that take place, whether the mass atrocities like Newtown, or the individual brutality of domestic abuse.”
The instant, electronic background checks now performed at gun stores screen prospective purchasers for felons, fugitives, drug abusers, spouse abusers subject to protective orders, and people suffering from serious mental illness, Blumenthal said. Such individuals are barred from buying guns.
Those same people are not allowed to buy ammunition either, he said — but, as of now, “a felon who walks into a gun store can load an entire shopping cart” with bullets, pay for them, and walk out without any check being performed.
“Ammunition, right now, is the black hole of gun violence prevention,” Blumenthal said during a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters. “There’s a gaping hole,” and he said Congress could fill it with what he called a “common sense enforcement tool.”
The measure would give law enforcement and social service personnel an additional chance to intervene in cases where an unsuitable person tries to get what he needs to do harm to others, Blumenthal said.
Adam Lanza, who killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, had hundreds of rounds of ammunition with him and fired an estimated 150 bullets at the school, investigators have found. Lanza killed himself when police arrived, and earlier had shot his mother to death at the Newtown home they shared.
Blumenthal said that he will seek co-sponsors among his Senate colleagues and plans to introduce the bill by the end of the month.
The bill would apply to ammunition purchases at gun stores, which are federally licensed, although it still wouldn’t cover the many purchases made at gun shows; he said it’s estimated that 40 percent of all gun purchases happen at gun shows, where private individuals can sell firearms to one another without the background check that licensed gun dealers are required to perform.
That “gun show loophole” needs to be closed via additional federal legislation, he said, adding that he also thinks the now-defunct federal ban on assault weapons should be reinstated, along with a ban on high-capacity gun magazines that have more than 10 rounds. Lanza used 30-round magazines at Newtown. Blumenthal also said there need to be “mental health initiatives.”
Blumenthal said his bill would have two other features:
–It would require gun dealers to report to state and local police the “large-scale” purchase by any individual of 1,000 or more rounds of ammunition. The requirement would apply to several purchases of smaller amounts of ammunition if they reach a total of 1,000 within a period of five business days.
–It also would extend an existing ban on bullets capable of piercing body armor and endangering police. Specifically banned would be Teflon-coated bullets and “incendiary” rounds that ignite or explode on contact, Blumenthal said.