Skip to content

Background Checks on All Gun Sales

Solutions

Background Checks on All Gun Sales

What does it solve?

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.

While federal law requires background checks for all gun sales by licensed gun dealers, it does not require background checks for guns sold by unlicensed sellers, like non-dealers who sell guns online or at gun shows. This loophole enables people with felony convictions, domestic abuse restraining orders, and other people with prohibiting histories to buy guns with no questions asked. The loophole should be closed to require background checks on all gun sales—not just on the sale of firearms from licensed gun dealers.

Background Checks and/or Purchase Permit

Which states require background checks and/or permits to purchase handguns?

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Alabama has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Alaska has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Arizona has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Arkansas has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

California has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Colorado has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Connecticut has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase and point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Delaware has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase (for handguns) and point-of-sale (for all guns)

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Florida has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Georgia has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Hawaii has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Idaho has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Illinois has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase and point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Indiana has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Iowa has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Kansas has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Kentucky has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Louisiana has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Maine has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns) sold at a gun show or as a result of an advertisement
When is the background check performed?
Point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Maryland has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase (for handguns) and point-of-sale (for all guns)

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Massachusetts has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Michigan has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Minnesota has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
Handguns and semiautomatic military-style assault weapons
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase or point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Mississippi has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Missouri has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Montana has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Nebraska has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
Handguns only
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Nevada has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

New Hampshire has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

New Jersey has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase and point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

New Mexico has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

New York has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase (for handguns and semiautomatic rifles) and point-of-sale (for all guns)

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

North Carolina has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

North Dakota has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Ohio has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Oklahoma has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Oregon has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Permit to purchase and point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Pennsylvania has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
Handguns only
When is the background check performed?
Point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Rhode Island has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

South Carolina has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

South Dakota has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Tennessee has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Texas has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Utah has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Vermont has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Virginia has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Washington has adopted this policy

Does the law cover only handgun purchases, or also rifle and shotgun purchases?
All firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)
When is the background check performed?
Point-of-sale

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

West Virginia has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Wisconsin has not adopted this policy

Background Check and/or Purchase Permit

Wyoming has not adopted this policy

Myth & Fact

Myth

Requiring background checks on all gun sales would be burdensome.

Fact

The most common federal background check legislation would simply require that unlicensed sellers meet their buyers at a gun dealer. The gun dealer will then run a background check in exactly the same way as for sales directly from the dealer’s store. In 2022, there were nearly 78,000 active gun dealers across the country,1Everytown Research analysis of ATF, Monthly Federal Firearms Listings, 2022. Total listings were deduplicated based on unique addresses. This total does not include Type 3 license holders, who are not permitted to sell firearms and thus are not engaged in the business of firearm sales. more than all McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and Wendy’s locations combined, and twice the number of US post offices2Everytown Research analysis of ATF, Monthly Federal Firearms Listings, 2022, and restaurant data: totals were 13,232 McDonald’s, 7,257 Burger King, 21,781 Subway, and 5,987 Wendy’s locations. There are 31,132 Postal Service-managed retail offices in the US.—so there are many places to get a background check done. Gun owners are already accustomed to this process, because they do it every time they buy a gun from a dealer.

How it works

Background checks keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Current federal law does not require background checks on sales between unlicensed parties. This means that people with dangerous histories can easily circumvent the background check system simply by purchasing their firearm online or at a gun show. 

An Everytown investigation showed that nearly 1 in 9 people arranging to buy a firearm on Armslist.com, the nation’s largest online gun marketplace, are people who cannot legally have firearms. And the unlicensed sale marketplace is large: the same investigation found that each year, 1.2 million ads offering firearms for sale are listed that would not legally require a background check to be completed. A 2015 survey found that nearly a quarter of Americans—22 percent—who acquired a firearm in the two years prior did so without a background check.1Matthew Miller, Lisa Hepburn, and Deborah Azrael, “Firearm Acquisition Without Background Checks: Results of a National Survey,” Annals of Internal Medicine 166, 4 (2017): 233–39, https://doi.org/10.7326/M16-1590.

Requiring background checks on all gun sales is proven to reduce gun violence. State laws requiring background checks for all handgun sales—by point-of-sale check and/or permit—are associated with lower firearm homicide rates,2Michael Siegel and Claire Boine, What Are the Most Effective Policies in Reducing Gun Homicides? Rockefeller Institute of Government, March 2019, https://bit.ly/2YPAz7P. lower firearm suicide rates,3Eric W. Fleegler et al., “Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States,” JAMA Internal Medicine 173, no. 9 (2013): 732–40, https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1286. and lower firearm trafficking.4Daniel W. Webster, Jon S. Vernick, and Maria T. Bulzacchelli, “Effects of State-Level Firearm Seller Accountability Policies on Firearm Trafficking,” Journal of Urban Health 86, no. 4 (July 2009): 525–37, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-009-9351-x; Daniel W. Webster et al., “Preventing the Diversion of Guns to Criminals Through Effective Firearm Sales Laws,” in Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013): 109-21, https://bit.ly/3Ic334l.

By the numbers

Survivor Story

Survivor Stories

Society failed our daughter. Elected officials must act to stop others from feeling our pain.

Alexandria Imani Burgos On October 19, 2014, our lives were shattered forever. Our daughter, Alexandria Imani Burgos, who was 18 years old at the time, went to pick up her younger brother, Christian, from a small birthday gathering at a friend’s house. While waiting inside, a stray bullet entered the… Continue

Victories

You might be wondering…

  1. 1 What is H.R. 8 and how will it close background check loopholes?
  2. 2 Would requiring background checks on all gun sales create a nationwide gun owner registry?
  3. 3 What is the Background Check Loophole?