Pennsylvania led the five states which recorded the largest number of denials, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics study of national data on firearms background checks released this week. The data showed the overall 1.4 percent denial rate in 2015 has stayed roughly the same over the two decades since passage of the Brady Act.
Federal, state and local authorities across the country denied 226,000 applications for gun permits or firearm transfers out of a total of 17 million received in 2015, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics study.
The number of rejections (1.4 percent) for 2015, the last year for which cumulative data were available, tracked closely the overall number of denials recorded since passage of the 1994 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which required a criminal history background check on any individual attempting to purchase a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensee.
The number of firearms applications also increased by two million, up from an estimated 15 million in 2014; but the percentage of applications denied only increased by a fraction (from 1.3 percent to 1.4 percent) in 2015.
In the two decades between approval of the Brady Act and 2015, authorities denied 1.5 percent (or three million) of the total 197 million applications, the study said.
Close to half (44 percent) of the denials by both federal and local agencies were based on previous felony convictions, according to the study’s summary of data on firearms background checks obtained through the Firearm Inquiry Statistics (FIST) program.
The BJS study found that five states were responsible for the largest number of applications, led by Pennsylvania (989,298), followed by Florida (885,086), Illinois (581,547), Tennessee (510,233), and Virginia (444,627).
Tennessee also registered the highest percentage of denials (3.9 percent) in 2015.
The lowest percentage of denials was recorded in Connecticut (0.1 percent), followed by Alaska (0.4 percent).
The permanent provisions of the Brady Act, which went into effect Nov. 30, 1998, established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a database containing the names of individuals prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm under federal or state law.
About 1,300 federal, state, and local agencies conduct background checks on persons who apply to purchase a firearm or for a permit that may be used to make a purchase. In accordance with the Brady Act, applicants must either undergo a NICS background check that has been requested by a dealer or present a state permit that has been qualified by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as an alternative to the point-of-transfer check.
The study was conducted by Jennifer C. Karberg, Ronald J. Frandsen and Joseph M. Durso, all of the Regional Justice Information Service ; Trent D. Buskirk, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts — Boston; and Allina D. Lee, of the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The full BJS study and tables can be downloaded here.