Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Tuesday he will introduce legislation to require instant background checks for purchasers of gun ammunition.
"Ammunition sales should be subject to the same legal requirements as firearm sales -- instant background checks using the FBI's database. There is no rational reason why a person can walk into a store, fill their shopping cart with hundreds of rounds of ammo, pay up, and walk out without so much as giving their name," Blumenthal said, adding that his proposal would "close this ludicrous loophole."
Blumenthal said that after the Sandy Hook massacre, "People in Newtown and across Connecticut have told me again and again: Please do something about gun violence. This legislation is one of several forthcoming proposals I will introduce to keep faith with them."
Blumenthal said he has discussed the proposal with Vice President Joe Biden and others on the task force that President Barack Obama set up under Biden's supervision to study the issue of gun violence. Blumenthal said he views this as one part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce firearms-related deaths.
"One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this proposal is that whatever is done to ban assault weapons and to broaden background checks for the purchase of firearms, there will already be huge numbers of weapons on the streets and in neighborhoods, including 3 million assault weapons,'' Blumenthal said. "This measure deals with the fuel that drives firearms violence. It's the oxygen supply."
Most background checks, Blumenthal said, typically take "less than 30 seconds" and "are about as unintrusive as you could get."
While there have been noted failures in the background-check system, he pointed out that of the 100 million background checks that have been done in the past 10 years, some 700,000 purchases were blocked.
Blumenthal said it shows that less than one percent of the checks resulted in a "no" but the ones that did kept guns out of the hands of felons, those with mental illness, domestic abusers, drug addicts and others disqualified under federal law.
Blumenthal's proposal would require ammunition sellers to keep records so they could potentially help police solve gun crimes.
It would also require dealers to report purchases or thefts of more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Such record-keeping was previously required, before being abolished in 1986.
The bill would also ban Teflon-coated bullets and incendiary ammunition, both of which can defeat body armor of the kind worn by law enforcement.
He said anyone with a hunter's license or a pistol permit that requires a background check would not have to go through an additional one.
Blumenthal stressed that many other things must be done as part of a comprehensive response: A ban on assault weapons, prohibition of high-capacity magazines, closing the gun-show loophole, strengthening gaps in the federal background check database, and better treatment, diagnosis, and intervention in mental-health cases.
Blumenthal said he has discussed the ammunition issue with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has asked Blumenthal to co-sponsor an assault-weapons ban with her. He also said Vice President Biden was "very encouraging" to him.
"He knows my background in this area as an attorney general (of Connecticut) and he has said he wants me to be involved in this issue," Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said he expects to introduce the legislation toward the end of January, and that in the meantime, he is seeking co-sponsors.