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Firearms applications drop, as do rejections

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal, state and local authorities last year rejected about 153,000 of some 7.7 million applications for firearms transfers or permits, the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Statistics said Sunday.

The 2000 rejection rate, about two percent, represented a 7.7 percent drop from the previous year. The Justice Department said the total number of applications for firearms declined in 2000, down from 8.6 million in 1999.

Experts said the statistics reflected efforts to reduce crime and violence, according to the Associated Press.

Guns under fire  

"These are the long-term positive repercussions of a lower crime rate," James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Boston's Northeastern University, told the AP. "People see that streets are safer and are not as compelled to go out and buy a gun."

But while the number of firearms-related applications went down, Lawrence Greenfield, the Bureau of Statistics' acting director, told the Associated Press that does not necessarily mean gun sales went up or down. People may have used one application to buy multiple firearms, Greenfield explained.

Checks began in 1994

The background checks grew out of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, enacted in March 1994. The act requires people wishing to own firearms (long guns and handguns) undergo a criminal history check when they apply for a transfer or permit.

From the Brady bill's inception to December 31, 2000, state, local and FBI authorities have rejected about 689,000 of almost 30 million applicants.

Agencies in 16 states conducted checks in 2000, while firearms dealers in the other 34 states are required to contact the FBI directly each time a transfer or permit application is filed.

The FBI processed 4.3 million firearms applications in 2000, rejecting about 1.6 percent.

State and local authorities accounted for about 86,000 -- or roughly half -- of last year's rejections, 2.5 percent of its 3.5 million checks.

Instant checks yield most rejections

Felony convictions or indictments led to 58 percent of those state and local rejections, down from 73 percent in 1999.

Domestic violence misdemeanor convictions or restraining orders was the second most common reason for rejection, amounting to 12 percent of total rejections.

The largest decreases in firearm applications were in California and Indiana, with each state's overall numbers dropping about 25 percent.

The highest rejection rates occurred in states that have implemented an instant check system since the Brady Act took effect seven years ago, according to the Bureau of Statistics. Those states included Tennessee at 7.2 percent and Colorado at 5 percent.

States that had background checks already in place by 1994 generally had lower rejection rates, paced by California (1 percent) and Virginia (1.4 percent).

• Bureau of Justice Statistics
• Americans for Gun Safety
• National Rifle Association
• The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

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