The Numbers Don't Lie: Why We Need to Close the Background Loopholes of Private Gun Sales - by Greer Clem

27 out of our 50 states require no background checks whatsoever when purchasing guns from a private seller. Background checks are not required by the state of Florida. In Maine, no background checks are required for private sale, though the Department of Public safety is available to assist private sellers who wish to conduct background checks. In Massachusetts, private sellers may check a buyer’s firearm ID card, though it is not required by law. In Michigan, there is no background check requirement for private sales of rifles or shotguns. In Minnesota, there is no required background check for the private sales of non-assault style rifles or shotguns. In Nebraska, there is no background check requirement for the private sales of rifles of shotguns. In Nevada, private sellers may request a background check but it is required by law. In North Carolina, no requirement for private sales of rifles or shotguns. In Pennsylvania, no requirement for private sales of rifles or shotguns.

Out of 50, only 10 states have comprehensive laws that mandate background checks for the sale of any firearm, including those from a private seller. Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. 4 additional states require state-issued permits for the private sale of any firearm, those states being Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

Data collected in 2013 marked Hawaii as the state with the lowest rate of deaths by firearms, at 2.6 per 100,000. For the same study, the five states with the highest rates of death by firearms were Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, all states where no permit is required to purchase a firearm and where private sellers have no legal obligation to conduct background checks.

Private sales, such as those made at gun shows, have long been considered the loopholes to state and federal gun laws. At most shows, sellers are not even required to keep a transactional record, so a person may buy a semi-automatic weapon without leaving behind any trace that they have done so. They may buy, for example, an AR-15, the semi-automatic assault rifle used by shooters in Las Vegas, Orlando, Newtown, and Parkland. The NRA estimates that Americans own more than 8 million AR-15s. They claim the AR-15 is so popular because it is customizable and can be used in any situation, including self-defense. Let me be clear: the only time you need a semi-automatic self-defense weapon is in a war zone. The AR-15 is the semi-automatic version of the M16 US military rifle. When first put on the market in 1963, the AR-15 fired 5-round magazines. It now fires 20 or 30 round magazines. No societal situation requires that kind of firepower.

Some advocates argue that they should be allowed to buy AR-15s as protection from other civilians who have them. Well, here’s a thought: no one should have them. Or, if you are a gun enthusiast who wants to buy one to go shoot at a range, you should be able to purchase them only after completing federal and state background checks, which should be made mandatory for all gun sales including private sales or those made at gun shows. No person, no matter how responsible or sane, should be able to purchase military-grade weaponry without a thorough background check. These are not radical ideas, though many will object that they are. Just look at the numbers. Look at our society, at our children, at the lock down drills practiced in schools and office buildings. The truth is that there will always be dangerous, unhealthy people, but they cannot commit mass murder if we limit the weapons available to them, and closing background check loopholes in private sales has to be the first step.

Greer Clem