|Health Factors:||Community Safety|
|Decision Makers:||Local Government State Government Federal Government|
|Population Reach:||100% of WI's population|
|Impact on Disparities:|
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Federal law requires licensed firearm dealers to conduct background checks of potential handgun purchasers’ criminal histories via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) which includes fugitive status, court restraining orders, and some information regarding severe mental illness. States can require collection and review of a broader set of disqualifying criteria (e.g., in-state criminal records of misdemeanor convictions, domestic violence restraining orders, juvenile court records, and histories of substance abuse or mental health issues), expanding prohibitions on purchase. Comprehensive checks can be adopted with other efforts to strengthen background checks such as universal background checks and regulations that require licenses to purchase or own firearms (LCPGV).
There is some evidence that comprehensive background checks reduce firearm homicide and suicide, as well as intimate partner homicides (Webster 2015, Santaella-Tenorio 2016). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects (Lang 2016).
Comprehensive background check laws can decrease homicide and suicide rates more than the narrower requirements of the federal background check (Sen 2012). Prohibiting firearm possession by those with domestic violence restraining orders via comprehensive checks can reduce intimate partner violence rates (Webster 2015). Comprehensive background checks may protect against fatal violence by keeping firearms from high-risk individuals (Swanson 2016); adding checks for mental health concerns may reduce firearm suicide rates more than checks of criminal history alone (Sen 2012).
As of October 2015, seven states (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington) require comprehensive checks, searching in-state mental health records of prospective purchasers during the background check process. Three states (Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wisconsin) prohibit firearm sales for individuals with juvenile court records and two states (Massachusetts and Wisconsin) prohibit firearm sales for individuals with domestic violence protective orders against them (LCPGV).
Most states prevent local governments from enacting gun laws via state preemption legislation (Grassroots Change); as of 2015, only seven states (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York) allow local governments to enact gun laws.
In Wisconsin, licensed dealers are required to conduct comprehensive background checks prior to sale of handguns, including juvenile delinquency records and domestic violence protective order information (LCPGV).
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