Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and Attorney General Janet Reno announced today that once again Brady background checks on prospective handgun purchasers will be conducted in every state in the nation.
Arkansas Attorney General Winston Bryant also announced that the State of Arkansas re-joins today the vast majority of jurisdictions across the country in voluntarily conducting background checks, which the State had discontinued following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Brady Law. The Court ruled that state and local law enforcement officials could not be required to conduct such checks.
"I am very pleased that Arkansas has reinstated background checks on handgun purchasers," said Secretary Rubin. "This public safety measure is absolutely critical to saving lives and preventing crime."
"Background checks save lives, and that's why, once again, they are being done in every state" said Attorney General Reno. "The overwhelming majority of affected law enforcement agencies have responded to the President's request to continue doing background checks voluntarily."
Arkansas is one of 23 states affected by the Supreme Court's decision last June that struck down the Brady Act's requirement that state or local officials conduct background checks on prospective handgun purchasers. It is also 1 of 7 states for which the responsibility for background checks lies at the state rather than local level.
In July, 1997 in wake of the Court's decision, Rubin and Reno met with national law enforcement leaders, to urge state and local police to continue to conduct background checks on prospective handgun purchasers.
Because of the Court's ruling, the Arkansas State Police immediately discontinued background checks on handgun buyers. However, virtually all of the law enforcement agencies in the other 22 states that had been conducting checks prior to the Court's decision continued to do them voluntarily.
The only other exception was Ohio, which initially responded to the Court's decision by continuing background checks only on purchasers who consented to one. Last month, Rubin and Reno entered into a voluntary arrangement with the Ohio Attorney General that resulted in full reinstatement of background checks on every prospective Ohio handgun purchaser.
To facilitate the resumption of background checks in Arkansas, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has designated the Arkansas Attorney General as a "Chief Law Enforcement Officer" under the Brady Act. Although the Brady Act provides for a pre-purchase waiting period of up to 5 days to allow a background to be conducted, Attorney General Bryant's office expects that, in most cases, the check will be completed within 1 business day of the time the office receives notice of the proposed gun sale. No fee will be charged for the background check.
"I am responsible for protecting the people of Arkansas, and that's why I've requested authority to conduct background checks" said Attorney General Bryant. "Under our procedure, law abiding citizens should be less inconvenienced than before, so that convicted felons and other prohibited persons are prevented from purchasing handguns."
In the event the background check yields information indicating that a prospective handgun purchaser may be disqualified by law from receiving or possessing a firearms, the Arkansas Attorney General will notify local law enforcement officials and prosecutors about the possibility that criminal conduct may be involved.
"An ATF review indicates that with Arkansas on board, nearly 100 percent of the United States population now lives in a jurisdiction where law enforcement performs background checks on handgun purchasers," Rubin said.
According to Department of Justice surveys, background checks of the kind provided for in the Brady Act have prevented firearm sales to over 300,000 felons, fugitives and others prohibited from receiving or possessing them. While in effect, background checks in Arkansas blocked over 1,500 criminals and other prohibited persons from illegally obtaining handguns from firearms dealers.