Background checks blocked 204,000 of the more than 8.6 million prospective firearm sales last year, according to a U.S. Justice Department report that shows state and local police rejected a higher percentage of would-be gun buyers than the FBI.

The 1999 figures brought the number of purchases rejected since the Brady Act instituted background checks in February, 1994 to 536,000 out of nearly 22.3 million applications, the department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported last month. That confirmed earlier estimates of more than 500,000 rejections, according to the Associated Press.

The FBI performed 4.5 million of the 8.6 million background checks last year, compared with 4.1 million by state and local agencies. The rejection rate among state and local agencies was three percent, compared with 1.8 percent for the FBI.

The report attributed this difference to state agencies’ access to more detailed criminal history records than the FBI, including fugitive status, court restraining orders, mental illness and domestic violence misdemeanor convictions as well as felony convictions.

The overall national rejection rate has remained 2.4 percent since 1994, despite the November 30, 1998 switch to computerized instant checks and the addition then of checks on long gun purchasers. Only handgun buyers were checked before that.
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Justice Department’s understanding of a law that imposes a mandatory 30-year sentence for using a machine gun in connection with a crime of violence. The department argued that the law simply provides an enhanced sentence, which is to be imposed by the trial judge.

However, in an opinion by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the court found that in this 1988 law, Congress intended to make the use of a machine gun not just a sentencing factor, but a “separate substantive crime,” to be charged separately and proven to a jury. The decision overturned a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans.

The decision in the case, Castillo v. United States, No. 99-658, vacated 30-year sentences given to four members of the Branch Davidians, who were convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of four federal agents in the 1993 raid on the group’s compound near Waco, Texas.
In Kentucky, police and sheriff’s departments early last month were preparing thousands of firearms for an auction ordered by the state Assembly, with the proceeds to be used for buying bulletproof vests for law enforcement officers.

Under a state law taking effect on the 15th of this month, the police agencies will have 90 days to turn over firearms they have seized or confiscated once they no longer need the weapons as evidence. That, reports USA TODAY, includes stolen firearms if the rightful owners cannot be found.

The guns then will be auctioned by a state agency to Kentucky’s 1,800 licensed gun dealers. The money raised will be used to buy the bulletproof vests.

Kentucky held a similar auction last year, selling 202 guns seized by the state police and raising $34,000. Louisville alone would turn over 1,500 guns. Lexington would have 1,200, and Jefferson County, which surrounds Louisville, would have 500.
In a recent Handgun Control, Inc. fundraising letter, HCI Chair Sarah Brady states the group seeks to “eliminate the gun show loophole,” secure passage of “a permanent waiting period” for firearm purchases, and enact requirements to “license new gun owners” and “register guns the way cars are registered.”

Brady states “our goal is to hold all gun manufacturers liable for the damage that results from negligent design and marketing of their deadly products…

“What’s more, we’re equally determined to take the next step towards a safer gun by demanding the careful regulation of guns by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”