The loophole has remained in place despite polls showing high levels of public support for making all firearms sales subject to background checks.
Gun-control activists see closing the loophole as the foundation for a comprehensive gun violence reduction plan, while the gun lobby, and many Republicans, have been vehemently opposed. But in the wake of mass shootings that left 31 dead in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, this month, President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress are facing new pressure to back measures to reduce gun violence.
They have voiced support for expanding the background check system, though gun control activists are skeptical that they are committed to meaningful changes to the federal policy, particularly given Mr. About 20 states have their own comprehensive background check laws. Research has shown that these states see fewer guns used in crimes, but that the added state checks alone have not led to significant drops in gun-related deaths, said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.
Instead, state background check laws are more effective when they work in tandem with other measures requiring state or local permits to purchase weapons, which often include additional requirements for fingerprinting and handgun safety training.
The combination, experts say, has reduced firearm homicides, suicides and shootings of law enforcement officers, as well as illegal gun trafficking. Webster said. But only so much can be gleaned from the experience of state background check laws because of the same problem that often befalls places with tighter gun laws: It is harder to force changes if nearby states have weaker regulations, which is one reason calls for universal background checks have been growing.
A stronger background check system most likely would not have prevented the massacres in Texas and Ohio, though other pending legislation, like a proposed assault weapons ban or new laws to temporarily take firearms away from people who appear to be dangerously unstable, could have had an effect. But Mr.
At the Mad River Armory and Range in Springfield, around a dozen people are taking in some target practice using a wide variety of firearms. Mad River, which also serves as a gun store, has one wall lined with weapons.
Owner Skip McGee stands in front a glass case full of handguns and explains the process for buying a gun. It starts, he says, with matching the buyer to the right weapon.
But purchasing a gun at a store in America requires the buyer to submit to a federal background check. Under the law, background checks must come back in three business days, though McGee says buying a gun can take as little as 20 minutes. The sale stopped, but if that phone call had come just a little later, McGee says the gun could have ended up in the wrong hands.
The government will typically step in to stop a sale for a number of reasons. The federal background check form asks a host of questions, including whether the buyer has been convicted of certain crimes, has a restraining order against them, or has a history of drug addiction or mental illness.
Mad River Armory and Range owner Skip McGee says his main goal is to make sure customers walk away with a weapon that's right for them. The rules for buying a gun from an online store are the same: A buyer still has to go through a background check. Instead, he says he ships the weapon to a licensed firearms dealer located near the buyer for pickup. Other rules are similarly byzantine.
However, federal law forbids private sellers from knowingly selling to a prohibited buyer. If they don't ask, and the buyer doesn't tell, then the seller likely won't be prosecuted for an illegal transaction. Firearms given as gifts between friends and family are generally treated in the same way as private sales. So if you give your brother a rifle for his birthday, assuming you are both in the same state, there's no need to complete any paperwork. Universal background checks would require most private purchases to run through the same background check process required for licensed dealers.
Private transactions at gun shows or through websites like Armslist would still be possible, but more complicated. Citizens could still buy and sell guns, but they would likely have to transfer the weapon to a licensed dealer to run a background check before completing the transaction.
Most universal background check proposals include exemptions for transferring guns between family members, and for borrowing guns. Because these private-party gun sales are generally unregulated, it's not known how many transactions would be affected by a new law requiring universal background checks. In , researchers surveyed 1, gun owners and found that about 22 percent of gun purchases in the previous two years were made without a background check. The study did not involve original research, but rather evaluated existing research to figure out whether there's any consensus on the effectiveness of various gun policies.
The analysis found "moderate evidence" that universal background checks reduce firearm suicides, which account for roughly 60 percent of gun deaths in the U.
There is also "moderate evidence" that the existing dealer background checks reduce firearm homicides. Researchers found that current research on the effect of private-seller background checks — the kind which would be implemented under the proposed legislation — is inconclusive. Also in , Johns Hopkins University researchers studying urban areas found that universal background checks were actually associated with an increase in firearm homicides if the checks were not also accompanied by a permitting system.
Typically called "permit to purchase," such systems require gun buyers to apply for a permit from local or state law enforcement officials before purchasing a gun.
Proponents argue permit to purchase laws help prevent straw purchases — when one person buys a gun on behalf of someone else — because they force the person buying the gun to directly interact with law enforcement officials. The Johns Hopkins researchers said their findings warrant more study.