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What is H.R. 8 and how will it close background check loopholes?

Updating federal law to require background checks on all gun sales is a common-sense way to keep guns out of the wrong hands. The bipartisan bill H.R. 8, which passed in the House of Representatives on March 11, 2021, would do just that. Learn more about background checks and H.R. 8.

What are background checks?

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. But a loophole in the process allows those who should not have access to guns to avoid a background check by buying guns through what is sometimes called the online sale loophole and the gun show loophole.

What are the loopholes in the current process?

Nearly a quarter of Americans who obtain firearms do so without getting a background check. Federal law does not require unlicensed sellers who sell guns online or at gun shows to conduct a background check prior to a sale. By law, criminals, domestic abusers, and other prohibited buyers are unable to purchase firearms. But when a background check is not conducted due to this loophole, these individuals may be able to buy guns without a background check being conducted. H.R. 8 would close those loopholes and require background checks on all gun sales, including sales between strangers that are arranged online and sales at gun shows.


22 percent of Americans report acquiring their most recent gun without a background check.

Miller M., Hepburn L., and Azrael D., “Firearm Acquisition Without Background Checks: Results of a National Survey”. Annals of Internal Medicine. (2017).


Nearly 1 in 9 people looking to buy a firearm on are people who would fail a background check.

Everytown for Gun Safety. “UNCHECKED: Over 1 Million Online Firearm Ads, No Background Checks Required”. Everytown for Safety. (2019).

An Everytown investigation found that as many as 1 in 9 people arranging to buy a firearm on, the nation’s largest online gun marketplace, are people who would fail a background check. The same investigation found a massive marketplace for gun sales where strangers can meet and no background check is legally required on the sale. Each year, there were 1.2 million ads offering firearms for sale on Armslist where no background check was required.

Do background checks work?


Background checks have blocked 4 million sales to people prohibited by law from having guns.

Connor Brooks, “Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2016-2017,” (US Bureau of Justice Statistics, February 2021),

Last updated: 6.22.2021

Since 1994, background checks have stopped more than 4 million illegal gun sales to violent criminals and other people prohibited from having guns. Closing loopholes in the process with H.R. 8 will ensure that background checks are required on all gun sales and help keep guns out of the wrong hands.

An Everytown investigation also analyzed if unlicensed sellers would do background checks on online gun sales on Armslist, the self-proclaimed “largest free gun classifieds on the web.” On ads offering guns for sale in states that require background checks, on average, 84 percent of sellers stated that the buyer would need to pass a background check before the gun was transferred. But in states without background check laws, only 6 percent of unlicensed sellers indicated a background check would be required to complete the sale. State background check laws worked to make Armslist safer. H.R. 8 would require all unlicensed sellers to do a background check on prospective gun purchasers to ensure that they can legally possess a firearm, and would help stop gun sales to prohibited purchasers. 

What is H.R. 8?

H.R. 8 is a bipartisan bill that would close loopholes in the background checks law. Federal law does not require unlicensed sellers who sell guns online or at gun shows to conduct a background check prior to selling a gun, even when the buyer is a stranger they just met. This legislation would close this loophole and ensure that background checks are required on all gun sales.

On March 2, 2021, H.R. 8 was re-introduced in the House of Representatives.

Did H.R. 8 pass in the House of Representatives?

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