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Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty

Representing the 5th District of Connecticut

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Esty, Van Hollen, Murphy, Blumenthal, Kelly, Adams to Introduce Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act

April 12, 2018
Press Release
Would incentivize states to require a permit to purchase handguns

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-05), along with Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-2), and Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) introduced the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act. The bill would incentivize states and local governments through federal grants to enact laws requiring individuals to obtain a license before purchasing a handgun. 

To qualify, a state’s permit to purchase law must require the individual applying for the license is at least 21 years old and apply through a law enforcement agency. Applicants would be required to provide fingerprints and photographs to law enforcement, as well as undergo a background check before receiving the purchasing license. 

“Research shows that permit to purchase laws are effective and prevent guns from getting into the hands of dangerous individuals. In my home state of Connecticut, permit to purchase laws worked to reduce firearm homicides by 40%. The Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act is one step forward we can take to make our communities safer while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” said Esty. “Dangerous loopholes in our existing federal laws put our families, friends, and neighbors at risk for harm, and while there are more steps we can and should take to keep our families safe, this is an important step forward.”

“The daily toll of gun violence is tearing at the fabric of our families and our communities. Addressing gun violence in a substantial way means taking a comprehensive look at our laws surrounding firearms. Of the thousands of Americans murdered every year by firearms, nearly 90 percent of those deaths occur with a handgun,” said Senator Van Hollen, who first introduced this legislation in 2015. “States require licenses to drive a car or even to go fishing — requiring a license to buy a handgun should be a no-brainer.”

“The evidence is clear: sensible handgun laws save lives,” said Blumenthal. “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.”

“Illinois is surrounded by states with lax or nearly non-existent gun safety laws. The failure of our neighbors to enact common sense gun safety laws directly contributes to crime and violence on our streets. In fact, sixty percent of guns used to commit crimes in Chicago come from outside Illinois,” said Kelly. “It’s past time to protect our families and communities by bringing best practices, real data and common sense to handgun purchasing. The Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act is based on decades of data and experience and will help reduce crime and gun violence.”

“Americans have been clear: we demand common sense measures to end the terror of gun violence,” said Adams. “Permit to purchase laws are proven, sensible ways to stem the flow of guns into the hands of violent individuals. In North Carolina, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of homicides committed with handguns since the implementation of our own licensing requirement. Now, it’s up to the federal government to help states implement a national standard to keep our nation safe.”

"Permit to purchase systems are proven to save lives. The 10 states that have implemented these systems know that0—and this legislation will be critical in ensuring that more states are able to as well. We're grateful to Congresswoman Esty and Senator Van Hollen for introducing this bill and urge Congress to pass it quickly. We have no time to waste,” said Robin Lloyd, Government Affairs Director at Giffords Law Center. 

"Research has shown that permit-to-purchase laws are one of the most effective tools states can enact to reduce the scourge of daily gun violence in our communities. The Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act will encourage all 50 states to enact these common-sense policies in order save lives. By incentivizing states to adopt permit-to-purchase laws, these lawmakers are taking action to make our communities safer.  We applaud them for their effort and urge Congress to bring this bill up for a vote," said Joshua Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

“CT Against Gun Violence applauds the introduction of the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act by Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, and Congresswoman Esty. Our experience in Connecticut demonstrates that permit to purchase laws can significantly lower gun homicides; we would like to see the rest of the nation benefit from this commonsense approach to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous or underage individuals,” said Jeremy Stein, Executive Director of CT Against Gun Violence.

“Connecticut’s handgun purchase licensing law has saved countless lives since its passage in 1994 and we fully support federal measures to incentivize other states to adopt a similar policy.  In five short years since the Sandy Hook tragedy, over 170,000 Americans have been killed by guns in America. Congress should be doing more to protect our children and families in our communities. Smart federal gun policies are needed to keep guns away from individuals who are a threat to themselves or others. We encourage all Members of House of Representatives and all Senators to support this common sense gun bill,” said Po Murray , Chairman of the Newtown Action Alliance & The Newtown Foundation.

Handgun purchaser licensing laws are statistically proven to be effective crime deterrents that help make communities safer by reducing firearm homicides and keeping guns out of the hands of prohibited individuals. Connecticut, Maryland, and Illinois are three of ten states to enact a permit to purchase (PTP) laws. Using mortality data from the Center for Disease Control, a 2015 study determined that when comparing to similar states with no PTP laws, Connecticut’s PTP law reduced firearm homicides by 40%, avoiding 296 firearm homicides from 1996 to 2005. Compared to non-firearm homicides from the same period, there were only 24 fewer homicides than expected, emphasizing the effect of PTP gun regulation. In 2007, Missouri repealed its requirement that handgun purchasers obtain a PTP and statistics show their state’s gun homicide rate rose by 25%.