Background checks are the only systematic way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. But under current federal law, background checks are only required for gun sales at licensed dealers. An estimated 40 percent of gun transfers take place between “private” parties — often at gun shows or through anonymous online transactions — and are not subject to a federal background check. Last year, an estimated 6.6 million guns were transferred this way — no checks, no records, no questions asked.
Sixteen states and Washington, DC, go beyond federal law by requiring a background check for private handgun sales: CA, CT, IA, HI, IL, MD, MA, MI, NE, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, and as of 2013, CO and DE. Evidence from these states shows that requiring a background check for private gun sales reduces crime and saves lives.
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