Gun Control

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Gun Control

Few national issues are more contentious than government efforts to restrict the ownership of firearms. A recent uptick in public mass shootings, as well as America’s disproportionately frequent gun violence as compared to other developed nations, has only served to ratchet up the rancor further. No matter your stance on the issue, background checking for gun purchases is playing a central role.

What is the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act?

The Brand Handgun Violence Prevention Act was established in 1993 and created the National Instant Criminal Background Check Systems, a database that allows firearm dealers to run quick searches on a prospective buyer’s eligibility.

What kinds of gun purchases do not require background checks?

Under federal law, only individuals and companies that are primarily in the business of selling guns (e.g. gun dealers) are required to perform a background check. Individuals who may occasionally sell a gun (e.g. a hunting enthusiast) are not required to perform a background check on the buyer. This is sometimes referred to as the "gun show loophole," because many of the sellers at gun shows fall under this latter category. Currently, 18 states have laws that require background checks even for these private firearm sales.

Is the background check system foolproof?

The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is the database used for gun purchase background checks. Unfortunately, gaps in reporting methodologies, state reporting requirements, and oversight make the database substantially incomplete with regard to predicting misuse resulting from a gun purchase.

Does the public support broader background checks?

A Pew Research Center poll released in 2013 reports that 81% of Americans support mandatory background checks for gun shows and private sales.

What are some concerns around universal background checks?

Aside from the Second Amendment granting the right to bear arms, many gun rights advocacy groups have voiced privacy concerns around the implementation of universal background checks. Public outrage ensued after one New York newspaper published a map showing the names and addresses of all gun permit holders in their region.

The ACLU has also raised concerns that data collected for background checks might be shared or reused for purposes outside the original intent of verifying gun purchase eligibility, while the National Rifle Association argues that universal background checks would not effectively stop criminal firearm purchases. On the other hand, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports that their research demonstrates a correlation between the enforcement of background check legislation and a decrease in firearm-related violence.

How effective are background checks?

In nearly every critical area of private and professional life, a well-executed background check is the most effective method generally available to ensure the veracity of information provided or to better understand an individual’s background.