The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1983 () codified at , also known as the Brady Bill, passed as by the United States Congress, signed into law by President Bill Clinton on November 30, 1993, and went into effect on February 28, 1994. The act was named after James Brady, who was shot by John Hinckley, Jr. during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981.
The waiting period provision of the Act expired in 1998 when the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) came online. NICS is managed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The system runs database checks on criminal records. A handgun purchaser may still have to wait for up to three business days if the NICS system fails to positively approve or deny his or her application to purchase a firearm; if the denial is not issued within those three days, the transfer may be completed at that time. State alternatives to the background check, such as state-issued handgun permits or mandatory state or local checks, may still bypass the NICS check.
The Bill was championed for over a decade by Brady's wife, Sarah Brady, who became a gun control advocate after her husband, James Brady was shot during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. In 1989 she became chairman of the legislative lobby, Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI). In 1991 she became chairman of HCI's "education, research, and legal advocacy" arm, The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. After the controversial shooting of exchange student Yoshihiro Hattori, she was a guest of honor at the signing ceremony for the bill in 1993, a milestone for her organizations. James Brady, who is paralyzed, appeared in a wheelchair.
In 2000 Sarah Brady purchased a .30-06 Springfield rifle in Delaware for her son. Second amendment rights groups claimed that this action was a straw purchase, intended to avoid the NICS, and may have also violated Delaware firearms purchase laws. While a purchase as a gift is not considered a straw purchase under US federal law, as long as the recipient is not prohibited from possessing the firearm; this is the same as any other private transfer, private transfers are a common target of gun control advocates, who usually call this the gun show loophole, and would make these transfers illegal.
In 1997 one provision of interim Brady Law was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Printz v. United States on 10th amendment grounds. The provision compelled state and local law enforcement officials to perform the background checks mandated by federal law. The Court determined that this provision violated both the concept of federalism and that of the unitary executive. However, state and local law enforcement officials were free to conduct the check if they so chose and many continued to do so. This issue became moot when NICS came online.
The five-day waiting period for handgun purchases expired on November 30, 1998 and was replaced by a computerized criminal background check prior to any firearm purchase from a dealer holding a Federal Firearms License (FFL). All dealers, manufacturers and importers must verify the identity of a non-FFL customer and receive authorization from the National Instant Check System (NICS) which often takes only minutes instead of the several-day waiting period.
Unless an exception applies or the purchase is being made using an approved alternative method, the Brady Law requires that background checks for individuals be conducted before a firearm may be purchased from a dealer, manufacturer or importer. Unless there are additional state restrictions, the firearm may be taken upon NICS approval. Purchases from a non-FFL seller are not subject to the Brady Law, but may be covered under other federal, state, and local restrictions. This distinction prevails without regard to the location of the sale. Thus FFL sales at gun shows are still subject to NICS approval while private sales are not. The so-called "Gun Show Loophole" would be more accurately called a "Private Sale Loophole."
The Brady Law does not apply to licensed Curios & Relics (C&R) collectors, but only in respect to C&R firearms. The FFL Category 03 Curio & Relic license costs $30 and is valid for 3 years. Licensed C&R collectors may also purchase C&R firearms from private individuals or from federal firearms dealers, whether in their home state or in another state, and ship C&R firearms in interstate commerce by common carrier. Curios or relics are defined in 27 CFR 478.11 as "Firearms which are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons." The regulation further states
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