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Justice Department Report on Fix NICS Act Highlights Urgent Need to Close Loopholes in Background Check System

November 14, 2019

Report Shows Increase in Records Submitted to Background Check System, but Recent Everytown Investigation Found It is Still Easy to Avoid Background Checks Altogether

Everytown Investigation Found Nearly 1.2 Million Ads on for Gun Sales Where No Background Check Was Required

U.S. Senate Has Failed to Act on a House Bill Requiring Background Checks on All Gun Sales for More Than 250 Days

NEW YORK – Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention organization, today released the following statement on U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s release of the first semiannual report on the Fix NICS Act. The report calls background checks a “critical tool” to keep firearms away from those legally prohibited from buying or possessing them, and reports that federal agencies and states have submitted more than 6 million new records to the background check system since the bill passed last year. 

However, while federal law requires background checks for guns sold by licensed gun dealers, it does not require background checks for gun sales made by unlicensed dealers to strangers they meet online or at gun shows. A recent Everytown report, “Unchecked,” found nearly 1.2 million ads on the website for gun sales where no background check was required.

“This is an encouraging sign, but it doesn’t matter how many records are in the background check system when a loophole in the law allows a person to avoid a background check altogether,” said Rob Wilcox, deputy director of policy and strategy for Everytown for Gun Safety. “An effective background check system does three things: has all the records available, gives law enforcement enough time to do a check, and requires checks on all gun sales — the Trump administration and U.S. Senate have struck out on two of the three.”

Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund has researched the background check loophole and earlier this year released a report, “Unchecked,” which detailed an investigation into gun ads posted on in 2018. Armslist, the self-described “largest free gun classifieds on the web,” allows prospective gun buyers to find guns being sold by unlicensed sellers who are not legally required to conduct a background check on the sale. Some findings of the investigation include:

  • The investigation uncovered nearly 1.2 million ads on Armslist for firearm sales that have no legal requirement for a background check. 
  • The investigation also found that, across several states, one in nine people seeking to buy a gun from an unlicensed seller were legally prohibited from buying or possessing a gun — and would have failed a background check at a licensed gun dealer. 
  • Sales initiated through Armslist advertisements were completed in as little as one day, with less than three minutes of face-to-face interaction and no background check or ID required.
  • Background check laws can make the difference: More than 80 percent of unlicensed sellers on the site who were from states with background check laws told investigators that they would require background checks before they would sell a weapon. But only 6 percent of sellers who were from states without similar laws said they would require the checks.

In February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which would require background checks on all gun sales, including unlicensed sales between strangers who meet online or at gun shows, and H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Check Act of 2019, a bill that would address the “Charleston loophole” that allows licensed dealers to sell a gun after three business days even if a background check has not been completed. Thus far, the U.S. Senate has not taken up legislation that would require background checks on all gun sales or that would address the so-called “Charleston loophole.”

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