Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2021 (Thompson)

By Dianna MacDonald, California State PTA Legislative Advocate

For more than a century, California State PTA has advocated for safer schools. While gun violence is a public-health crisis that affects us all, it is of particular concern when it comes to the safety of our children and youth.  Deaths from gun violence are preventable. 

California State PTA supports state and federal legislation that protects all children and youth from gun violence. We base this on our position statement on Firearms and Assault Weapons, which was deemed relevant in 2018. 

In March 2021, California State PTA Legislation Action Committee voted to support House Resolution (HR)  8 – Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2021 (Thompson), which would establish new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties (i.e., unlicensed individuals). It specifically prohibits a firearm transfer between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, or importer first takes possession of the firearm to conduct a background check. 

What is a universal background check?
A universal background check, conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), is required anytime a gun is purchased through a federally licensed gun dealer. 

What does the Federal Law currently require as far as licensed gun dealer background checks?
Current federal law requires licensed gun dealers to conduct a background check prior to completing a gun sale under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to prevent certain individuals, for example, those with histories of domestic abuse or violent felony convictions, from gun possession. After an individual submits to a background check, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has three days to conduct an investigation.

What does the Federal government require for private gun sales?
The Federal government currently does not legislate private sales, known as the private-sale loophole. Private sellers do not need to conduct a background check.

Does California require universal background checks?
In 1991, California required universal background checks for gun sales and transfers by authorized dealers. In 2006, California established a database for identifying firearm owners who fall into a prohibited status, such as violent crime conviction and drug offenses. In 2017, California voters approved Proposition 63 which required background checks for ammunition purchases and banned possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines. 

Does California legislate private gun sales?
Twenty-two states have legislated some categories of private sales. California is one of those states, requiring transfers between private parties be conducted through a licensed California dealer who must conduct a background check (Penal Code 28050).

What are other California gun laws?
California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States with over 100 laws that restrict the manner in which firearms can be used. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence awarded California in 2020 an “A” (one of only two awarded) for gun control laws which include bans on specific types of firearms and assault weapons (Penal Code 16590 and 30600) and limitations on bringing guns to certain locations, like schools (Penal Code 626.9). Effective July 1, 2021, California’s ban on purchasing more than one gun in a 30-day period was expanded to semi-automatic weapons (Senate Bill (SB) 61, Portantino).

Why is California State PTA supporting HR 8?
Gun violence is an epidemic, with more than one hundred Americans dying from gun violence every day, and twice as many shot and wounded. America’s gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than in other high-income countries and this violence directly affects the health and welfare of children and families across the country.