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H.R.5490 - Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act

To provide for a grant program for handgun licensing programs, and for other purposes.

You might favor this bill if:
►  You believe states should be incentivized via federal grants to enact laws requiring individuals to obtain licences before purchasing handguns. Studies show states who have enacted such laws have seen a decrease in homicide rates.

You might oppose this bill if:
►  You believe that obtaining licenses before purchasing handguns will not reduce gun violence. Rather it would only burden and delay law abiding individuals from obtaining a handgun.

Representative Elizabeth Esty [D-CT-5] shares with CAN her bill, H.R.5490 - Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act.

The Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act would incentivize states and local governments through federal grants to enact laws requiring individuals to obtain a license before purchasing a handgun.

To qualify, a state’s permit to purchase law must require the individual applying for the license is at least 21 years old and apply through a law enforcement agency. Applicants would be required to provide fingerprints and photographs to law enforcement, as well as undergo a background check before receiving the purchasing license.

The legislation states the following as findings:
- “In 2013, more than 33,000 Americans were killed by guns and almost 90 percent of the firearms used in these deaths were handguns”;
- “Recently published research by top national experts, notably on Missouri and Connecticut handgun purchaser licensing laws, have estimated that Missouri’s repeal of its handgun purchaser licensing law led to a 25-percent increase in firearm homicide rates while Connecticut’s adoption of its handgun purchaser licensing law led to a 40-percent decrease in firearm homicide rates”; and
- “In States which have had effective handgun purchaser licensing laws for decades, such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, the vast majority of guns traced to crimes originated in other States, which supports the need for handgun purchaser licensing laws in every State.”

According to Rep. Etsy’s press release on the legislation, handgun purchaser licensing laws are statistically proven to be effective crime deterrents that help make communities safer by reducing firearm homicides and keeping guns out of the hands of prohibited individuals. Connecticut, Maryland, and Illinois are three of ten states to enact a permit to purchase (PTP) laws. Using mortality data from the Center for Disease Control, a 2015 study determined that when comparing to similar states with no PTP laws, Connecticut’s PTP law reduced firearm homicides by 40%, avoiding 296 firearm homicides from 1996 to 2005. Compared to non-firearm homicides from the same period, there were only 24 fewer homicides than expected, emphasizing the effect of PTP gun regulation. In 2007, Missouri repealed its requirement that handgun purchasers obtain a PTP and statistics show their state’s gun homicide rate rose by 25%.

“Research shows that permit to purchase laws are effective and prevent guns from getting into the hands of dangerous individuals. In my home state of Connecticut, permit to purchase laws worked to reduce firearm homicides by 40%. The Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act is one step forward we can take to make our communities safer while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” said sponsor of the bill Congresswoman Esty. “Dangerous loopholes in our existing federal laws put our families, friends, and neighbors at risk for harm, and while there are more steps we can and should take to keep our families safe, this is an important step forward.”

Those who oppose the legislation argue that the study is inaccurate, claiming that measuring homicides to the year before is imprecise, so a drop in 40% is really immeasurable. They derive that the actual drop in homicides comes from a national drop in homicides rates and not in the licensing laws. In an article published by, it is claimed that “the researchers cherry-picked their numbers and compared their data sample to a “synthetic” Connecticut to arrive at the claim. Further, critics hold that the decline in murders observed in the study was part of a national drop in violent crime unrelated to the new law and that Connecticut’s crime rate has climbed since 2015.” It’s important to note, no actual study was cited to defend the argument in such article and no study was found upholding the claims.

“It’s past time to protect our families and communities by bringing best practices, real data and common sense to handgun purchasing. The Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act is based on decades of data and experience and will help reduce crime and gun violence,” said cosponsor of the bill Rep. Kelly.


Sponsored by: Rep. Esty, Elizabeth H. [D-CT-5].

Cosponsored by: 0 Rep / 2 Dem.

See list of cosponsors.

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