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NRA opposes expanding firearm background check systems, because background checks don’t stop criminals from getting firearms, because some proposals to do so would deprive individuals of due process of law, and because NRA opposes firearm registration.

Background checks don’t necessarily stop criminals from getting firearms. Federal studies have repeatedly found that persons imprisoned for firearm crimes get their firearms mostly through theft, the black market, or family members or friends. Less than one percent get guns at gun shows. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)

Most mass shooters, including those inspired by Islamic terrorist groups, pass background checks to acquire firearms.

ATF has said that nearly half of illegally trafficked firearms originate with "straw purchasers"—people who pass background checks to buy firearms for criminals. The terrorists who attacked in San Bernardino in 2015 got firearms from a straw purchaser who passed a background check.

Federal law requires firearm dealers, regardless of location, to initiate a background check before selling or otherwise transferring a firearm to a person who is not a dealer.

There is no “gun show loophole.” Federal law is the same, regardless of where a firearm sale takes place.

There is no “online sales” loophole. Federal law is the same, regardless of how people communicate about selling/buying a firearm. Federal law prohibits anyone— licensed firearm dealer or not—from shipping a firearm to a person who lives in another state, unless that person is also a dealer. Dealers must document all firearms they receive.

Federal law requires all firearm dealers to be licensed[1] and to initiate a background check before transferring a firearm to a non-dealer,[2]regardless of where the transfer takes place.[3] Background checks for firearms have been conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) since November 1998.[4]

However, background checks don’t stop criminals from stealing firearms, getting them on the black market, or getting them from straw purchasers. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), 77 percent of criminals in state prison for firearm crimes get firearms through theft, on the black market, from a drug dealer or “on the street,” or from family members and friends, while less than one percent get firearms from dealers or non-dealers at gun shows.[5]

A study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) of federal armed career criminals showed that while 79 percent had acquired their firearms from “off the street” sales, “criminal acts,” and relatives, only six percent had acquired firearms from dealers or non-dealers at gun shows and flea markets.[6]

According to the DOJ, “about 1.4 million guns, or an annual average of 232,400, were stolen during burglaries and other property crimes in the six-year period from 2005 through 2010.”[7]The FBI’s stolen firearm file contained over two million reports as of March 1995.[8]

ATF has said, “Those that steal firearms commit violent crimes with stolen guns, transfer stolen firearms to others who commit crimes, and create an unregulated secondary market for firearms, including a market for those who are prohibited by law from possessing a gun.”[9]

ATF has reported, “[t]he most frequent type of trafficking channel identified in ATF investigations is straw purchasing from federally licensed firearms dealers. Nearly 50 percent . . . .”[10] Criminals defeat the background check system by getting guns through straw purchasers.[11]The terrorists who attacked in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015, used firearms they acquired through a straw purchaser.[12]

According to the nation’s leading criminologist specializing in the study of murder, “Most mass murderers do not have criminal records or a history of psychiatric hospitalization. They would not be disqualified from purchasing their weapons legally. Certainly, people cannot be denied their Second Amendment rights just because they look strange or act in an odd manner. Besides, mass killers could always find an alternative way of securing the needed weaponry, even if they had to steal from family members or friends.[13]

None of the mass shootings that former President Barack Obama named in a White House speech on gun control in January 2016, would have been prevented by requiring background checks on private sales of firearms.[14] Further, background checks would not have prevented any of the high-profile shootings with 10 or more fatalities that have occurred since Obama's speech.[15]


Background checks are not “the most important thing we can do.” Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group says, “The single most important thing we can do to reduce gun violence is to require a criminal background check for every gun sale.”[16]The statement is preposterous. Since 1991, when the nation’s violent crime rate hit an all-time high, violent crime has been cut by half, as gun control has been eliminated or ameliorated at the federal, state, and local levels.[17] Most experts attribute the decrease in crime to economic factors, improved policing programs, the reduction in the crack cocaine trade, increased incarceration rates, and other factors unrelated to gun control.[18] The FBI doesn’t include gun ownership or gun control in its list of crime factors.[19]

There is no “gun show loophole.”[20]Since 1994, federal law has required dealers to initiate a background check before selling or otherwise transferring a firearm, whether at a gun show or anywhere else.[21]

“Loophole” is a phony term.The Gun Control Act (1968) and the Brady Act (1993), written and voted for by gun control supporters, expressly impose record-keeping and background check requirements on firearm dealers, manufacturers, and importers alone. The Gun Control Act’s preamble states, “it is not the purpose of this title to place any undue or unnecessary federal restrictions or burdens on law-abiding citizens.”[22]

It’s not “40 percent.” In January 2013, the Washington Post gave President Obama “Three Pinocchios” for claiming that 40 percent of firearms are sold without a background check, and noted that the authors of the study upon which the claim is based say, “we don’t know the current percentage, nor does anyone else.”[23]Nevertheless, gun control supporters still repeat the “40 percent” claim in their propaganda materials.[24]Whatever the percentage, the fact remains that the nation’s murder rate is at an all-time low.[25]

It’s not “92 percent” either. Gun control supporters claim that 92 percent of Americans support background checks on all firearm transfers.[26] However, in November 2014, despite gun control supporters spending millions of dollars promoting a private sales background check ballot initiative in Washington, a state more receptive to gun control than most, the initiative was approved by 59 percent of voters.[27] Facing the same moneyed interests, in November 2016, Maine voters rejected a background check referendum by a margin of 52 to 48 percent.[28] That same year, Nevada voters adopted an unenforceable background check measure 50.45 to 49.55 percent.[29]


In addition to requiring firearm dealers, manufacturers, and importers to initiate a background check on any non-licensee to whom they intend to transfer a firearm, and prohibiting the possession of firearms by nine categories of prohibited persons,[30] federal law already prohibits things associated with what gun control supporters call “online” or “internet” firearm sales. While a person may advertise a firearm on the internet:

Federal law prohibits transferring a firearm to anyone known or believed to be prohibited from possessing firearms. (18 USC992(d))
Federal law prohibits a non-licensee from acquiring a handgun outside his state of residence and prohibits a non-licensee from acquiring a rifle or shotgun from a non-licensee outside his state of residence. (18 USC 992(a)(3))

Federal law prohibits anyone from transferring a handgun to a non-licensee who resides in another state (with rare exceptions), and prohibits a non-licensee from transferring any firearm to a non-licensee who resides in another state. (18 USC 922(a)(5))
Federal law prohibits the acquisition of a firearm on behalf of a person who is prohibited from possessing firearms. (18 USC 922(h) and 922(a)(6))

Federal law prohibits anyone from providing a handgun to a juvenile (person under age 18), and prohibits juveniles from possessing handguns, with limited exceptions. (18 USC 922(x))
Federal law also prohibits dealers from selling rifles or shotguns to persons under age 18. (18 USC 922(b)(1))


Until 1988, when gun control supporters started calling for a ban on “assault weapons,” they had tried to get a ban on handguns.[31]In 1976, the anti-gun group now known as the Brady Campaign described handgun registration as the second step in a three-step plan to prohibit the private possession of handguns.[32] The first part of its plan was to slow down handgun sales, and for many years it hoped to do so by having handgun purchases subjected to a waiting period and other restrictions.

For example, legislation introduced in Congress by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the late Rep. Peter Rodino (D-N.J.) proposed a 21-day waiting period on purchases of handguns from dealers, limiting handgun purchases to two per year, requiring a permit to acquire a handgun from a dealer, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of handguns not deemed suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes, and imposing a $500 annual licensing fee on dealers who sold handguns.[33]

In the 1980s, when the Brady Campaign was known as Handgun Control, Inc., it continued to support waiting period legislation to slow down handgun sales, and opposed the establishment of NICS.[34] In 1993, Congress approved the Brady Act, which imposed a waiting period of up to five days on handgun purchases from dealers until November 30, 1998, at which time it required NICS checks for all firearms sold by dealers. Gun control supporters opposed the NICS provision.

Once NICS was inevitable, gun control supporters began advocating steps aimed at incrementally transforming it into a national registry of guns, something they’ve wanted for more than a century.[35] At first, they wanted background checks on all private (i.e., non-licensee) sales, trades and gifts of handguns.[36] Then they wanted background checks on private transfers of all guns at gun shows.[37]

In 1996, a tiny group that still advocates banning handguns and other categories of firearms claimed that gun shows were a “favored venue” for criminals seeking to acquire guns.[38] To drive gun shows out of business, the group proposed that sales of handguns and “assault weapons” (which together account for the majority of guns sold at shows and elsewhere) and firearms regulated under the National Firearms Act be prohibited at shows.[39]

By the time that NICS became operational in November 1998, gun control supporters had realized that, through a series of steps, they might be able to use the system to achieve gun registration. In 1999, the late-Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a longtime gun control supporter, introduced legislation to require a NICS check on anyone who bought a gun at a gun show.[40] In 2009, Lautenberg proposed that the FBI retain, indefinitely, records of people who pass NICS checks to acquire guns.[41]

Since December 2012, gun control supporters have “demanded”[42] background checks on all private transfers of all firearms, regardless of location. And in 2013, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to eliminate the requirement that the FBI destroy the records of approved NICS checks within 24 hours.[43]Also in 2013, the Department of Justice said that background checks on all firearm transfers “depends on . . . requiring gun registration.”[44]NICS would become a registry of firearm transfers if all firearms transfers were subject to NICS checks and the FBI retained records of approved checks indefinitely, both of which gun control supporters have proposed, and such records included information currently maintained on federal Form 4473, documenting the identity of the firearm purchaser and the make, model and serial number of the firearm transferred. Over time, as people sell or bequeath their firearms, a registry of firearm transfers would become a registry of firearms possessed.