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Handgun Licensing and Registration

What it Can and Cannot Do

Section Four: A Better Way

When evaluating a licensing and registration proposal it is important to understand and consider exactly what licensing and registration can add to the laws already on the books. Passage of a licensing system simply based on the existing prohibitions on gun ownership for persons in specific proscribed categories (such as individuals with felonies or misdemeanor domestic violence convictions, illegal aliens, persons subject to a restraining order, etc.) would for the most part serve only as an expensive duplication of the function already served by the National Instant Check System under the Brady Law.

The Violence Policy Center believes that a more efficient approach would be to:

  • expand the current Brady background check to include all gun salesó including private sales between individuals, as well as sales at gun shows and over the Internetóby requiring that all gun sales be conducted through a federally licensed firearms dealer;

  • expand the current list of persons prohibited from possessing firearms to include those with convictions for violent misdemeanors; and,

  • expand the existing federal registration system that currently applies to machine guns, silencers, and other weapons covered under the National Firearms Act of 1934 to include handguns.

The VPC calls this alternative approach "Building on Brady." It draws on the strengths of the 1993 Brady Law and the existing National Firearms Act registry while avoiding the expense and bureaucracy attendant with traditional licensing and registration proposals. It also incorporates the findings of important new research regarding gun possession by individuals with criminal convictions for violent misdemeanors. A 1998 study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) found that handgun purchasers with previous misdemeanor convictions were 7.5 times as likely to be charged with new crimes after buying their guns as were handgun buyers with no prior criminal record. Handgun buyers with more than one conviction for a violent misdemeanor were 15 times as likely to be charged with murder, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault as were those with no prior criminal history.24 Currently, federal law only prohibits firearms possession by those with prior misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence.



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The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational organization that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.






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