NRA-ILA Continues to Oppose Universal Background Checks

From the Desk of Jim Baker, Director of NRA-ILA

Jim Baker, Director NRA-ILA
Jim Baker, Director NRA-ILA

Charlotte, NC –-( Good afternoon,

Over the past few weeks, the NRA has fielded questions about our opposition to the proposed universal background check system.

We have several concerns about the proposal including the burden it would place on law-abiding gun owners, the failure of the DOJ to prosecute prohibited persons who attempt to buy firearms and the cumbersome delays that it would place on legal purchasers, while leaving criminals free to buy firearms illegally on the black market.

First, the current NICS database is not complete or accurate, as it does not contain the names of every person adjudicated mentally defective, every convicted felon or other prohibited person who is supposed to be prevented from buying a firearm. Shouldn’t building a complete and accurate database be accomplished before you subject millions of law-abiding gun owners to an increased level of scrutiny?

Second, the state and federal agencies responsible for conducting background checks are already strained by the number of checks they are currently administering.

Without substantially increased funding and man power, how do we prevent the check system from becoming a cumbersome requirement that ultimately subverts the Second Amendment by significantly delaying a law-abiding person’s ability to exercise his or her rights?

Checks in Colorado are currently taking nine days to complete. Maryland’s checks are taking 20 days to complete. Federal law built in a failsafe to prevent such delays-allowing gun dealers to sell a firearm after 3 days if a check is not completed in a timely fashion-however, because selling to a prohibited person would likely result in the revocation of the dealer’s license, virtually no legal dealer is willing to run the risk. Thus, the 3 day failsafe is essentially meaningless.

Third, there are logisitical questions to be answered about who will conduct these checks. Will federally license dealers (FFLs) be required to conduct checks or will they permitted to opt out of facilitating private transfers? Why would a dealer operating a store (whether Mom and Pop or big box like Wal-Mart) agree to take time away from their customers to conduct a transfer for a non-customer? How much would dealers charge to conduct such a check?

And perhaps most importantly, how many Americans have easy access to a licensed dealer? While dealers are plentiful in some communities, many gun owners living in rural areas or in frontier states such as Alaska, Montana and North Dakota would be forced to travel long distances to reach a qualified dealer. And what would happen to the travelers if the background check couldn’t be completed immediately and was delayed for three days or longer?

Moreover, how much money would a dealer charge to conduct a private sale involving the transfer of a firearm and a background check? In California, dealers may charge $10 per firearm. In D.C., the District’s only licensed dealer charges $150 per transfer. And a fee that might seem nominal to most people could present a significant barrier to others; such a fee could become the equivalent of a modern day poll tax.

Fourth, the majority of criminals looking to obtain firearms don’t subject themselves to background checks. A Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of state prison inmates convicted of firearm crimes found that 79 percent acquired their firearms from “street/illegal sources” or “friends or family.” This includes theft of firearms, black market purchases of stolen firearms, and straw purchases. The survey also found that 12 percent obtained their firearms from firearm dealers (gun stores, pawn shops), while only 1.7 percent obtained firearms from anyone (dealer or non-dealer) at a gun show or flea market.

Additionally, the ATF tracks the lifespan of a firearm used to commit a crime, a statistic they call “time to crime.” This tracks how much time has passed between the original sale of a firearm by a dealer and the time it was recovered at a crime scene average. The average time to crime” in 2011 was 15 years. This means that firearms pass through many hands and spend over a decade in circulation before being used in a crime. So how many crime guns will be stopped by beefing up checks at the initial point of sale?

Finally, Universal Background Checks could easily be used to establish a national registry of gun owners. Current law requires that the FBI destroy the NICS background check records for approved gun sales within 24 hours of the report being generated. This failsafe is in place to prevent the creation of a federal registry of gun owners. However, if you subject every legal gun transaction to a universal background check, and not submitting to a NICS check is a crime, how do you easily verify that such a check has taken place without a national registry of gun owners?

Without such a registry, your only mechanism for verifying that a background check had taken place would be to inspect the records of the individual dealer who supposedly conducted the check, a cumbersome process to say the least. How long before an efficiency-minded person decides that it would be far simpler to keep an electronic record of every transaction to verify that the checks had taken place even though such a database would constitute a de facto registry and be ripe for misuse?

These are but a handful of the questions and concerns that the NRA has with the proposed universal background check. And while we are open to listening to ideas on the matter, our familiarity with the system leads us to believe that while the idea of a universal check sounds good on the surface, the devil is in the details.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. For more information, see NRA-ILA’s Fact Sheet on private sales and registration. Sincerely,

Jim Baker, Director NRA-ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit:

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Just give up a little of your freedom. Just a little! Good? Okay now, a little more. {/snark}

If I hear one more person tell me that universal background checks are "reasonable" I might scream.