What is the problem?
Keeping guns out of the hands of people who are likely to harm themselves or others—before they act—is the most effective way to prevent gun violence.
Federal law requires background checks on all gun sales from licensed firearm dealers to ensure that gun buyers do not fall into one of the categories of people prohibited by law from having a gun. But the law does not require background checks on sales from unlicensed sellers, including online or at gun shows—making it easy for a prohibited person to acquire a gun. Federal law also fails to prohibit certain categories of people with particularly dangerous histories, and it does not provide a process through which people who are likely to commit violent acts against themselves or others can be blocked from having access to guns.
Why is it an issue?
Preventing access to guns by those who pose a risk to themselves or others.
Any comprehensive gun violence prevention strategy must start with background checks on all gun sales and build upon them to close other existing loopholes that enable prohibited people to access guns, including the one that allows a gun sale to proceed if a background check isn’t completed within three business days and addressing the rising threat of ghost guns.
Federal law and many state laws also do not prohibit gun possession by certain categories of people with particularly dangerous histories, including abusive dating partners and people recently convicted of violent misdemeanors. Federal law also fails to provide a process through which people who are likely to commit violent acts against themselves or others can be temporarily blocked from having access to guns.
By the numbers
93 percent of American voters support requiring background checks on all gun sales, including 89 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of gun owners.
Each year, 1.2 million online ads offering firearms for sale are listed that would not legally require a background check to be completed.
Researchers estimate that a suicide is averted in approximately one in ten gun removal cases brought under Connecticut’s Extreme Risk law.
What are the solutions?
Background Checks on All Gun Sales
Background checks are the foundation of any comprehensive gun violence prevention strategy. Current federal law requires that background checks be conducted whenever a person attempts to buy a gun from a licensed gun dealer. This is to ensure that the buyer is not legally prohibited from having the gun.
Prohibit People With Dangerous Histories From Having Guns
People with dangerous histories must be prohibited from having guns. Federal law prohibits gun possession by certain categories of people. States also set standards for who is too dangerous to have guns. People prohibited by federal or state law will fail a background check if they try to buy a gun from a licensed dealer.
Extreme Risk Laws
When a person is in crisis and considering harming themselves or others, family members and law enforcement are often the first people to see the warning signs. Extreme Risk laws, sometimes referred to as “Red Flag” laws, allow loved ones or law enforcement to intervene by petitioning a court for an order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing guns.
Close the Charleston Loophole
Under federal law, gun purchases may move forward by default after three business days—even if a background check has not been completed. While 90% of federal background checks are completed in minutes, those that take longer than three business days are four times as likely to be denied.
Gun Dealer Reform
Laws on how gun stores conduct their business have not been strengthened since the 1960s. Congress should pass comprehensive gun dealer reform.
Require Prohibited People to Turn in Their Guns
Requiring people to turn in their guns when they become legally prohibited from having them helps keep guns out of the wrong hands. Under federal law, there is no affirmative requirement that people who are prohibited from having guns turn in firearms that they already have.
Stop Downloadable Guns
Downloadable guns, or 3-D printed guns, are serious threats to our communities. The key to stopping the spread of downloadable guns is to stop the spread of the computer code that is used to 3-D print the firearm or its parts.