One Pagers

Why Background Checks Protect Gun Owners

March 07, 2013 4:29 pm ET
According to a new study, the states with the fewest gun-related deaths also have the most gun violence prevention laws -- policies like a hugely popular nation-wide proposal pending in Congress to require a background check for every gun sale. A key piece in closing the private sale loophole -- documenting the sale and background check with the sales receipt that stays with the seller instead of the government -- is necessary to protect law-abiding gun owners, but NRA lobbyists are still opposing it.

Share: | Facebook Share on Facebook  | Twitter Share on Twitter


An enforceable background check system protects law-abiding gun owners.

Connect: Our laws should be enforceable against criminals and protect law-abiding citizens. That's common sense.

Define: A criminal background check for every gun sale -- backed up by proof in the sales receipt -- protects law-abiding gun owners and makes the system enforceable.

Explain: If there's no sales receipt and the person you sold your gun to commits a crime with it, that gun would be traced back to you instead of the criminal.

Discredit: Not requiring any recordkeeping of gun sales means we'd be trusting criminals to buy guns on an honor system. That's why licensed gun dealers have been keeping private records in their stores for the last four decades.

Expose: Closing the private sale loophole, so private sellers join licensed dealers in documenting sales, is such a common sense idea that the only people who oppose it are criminals -- and NRA lobbyists.

Lead: Instead of answering to NRA lobbyists, our leaders should be listening to gun owners, law enforcement, and 90% of Americans who support common sense background checks for all gun sales.


ATTACK: "These proposals to make private sellers complete the gun sale at a gun dealer's shop are a big burden."

  • There are over 58,000 licensed gun dealers across the country -- as many as post offices, McDonald's, and Starbucks combined.
  • So compare the little inconvenience of a gun owner visiting a local gun shop to complete a private sale to the priceless life of a child. If you're a gun owner in an exceptionally remote area, the proposals on the table even include exemptions.
  • The bottom line is that getting an instant criminal background check and keeping a record with the dealer protects gun owners and sellers at virtually no inconvenience to them.

ATTACK: "Universal background checks will lead to a national gun registry."

  • Federal law prohibits the creation of a national gun registry. No one is proposing to change that.
  • Here's the reality. The only official record of each gun sale is a basic sales receipt, or what's called a Form 4473, that stays with the seller. Gun dealers have already been keeping these receipts for 40 years.
  • Law enforcement officials would get to access the records only in very limited situations, such as for criminal investigations. The completed background checks of law-abiding buyers are also destroyed by the FBI within 24 hours. That's hardly the basis for a national registry.
  • So NRA lobbyists and their fringe extremist allies who lie about it anyway are just trying to fundraise off concerned gun owners and boost gun sales for the gun manufacturers.

ATTACK: "Universal background checks would violate our privacy rights."

  • The millions of law-abiding gun buyers who undergo the instant background checks every year aren't complaining about privacy issues. Millions more who fly on a plane give their names, show ID, and go through security. Why should it be different for gun sales?
  • The background check system exists to protect law-abiding gun owners from getting blamed for crimes committed with guns no longer in their possession. That's possible only because each gun sale generates a sales receipt -- which the gun dealer keeps, not the federal government.
  • Licensed gun dealers have already been conducting background checks and keeping sales receipts for decades. Closing the private sale loophole just brings everyone else into the same instant check system, which already has privacy protections and bans creating a national registry.
  • So it's no wonder that 75% of rank-and-file NRA members are siding with law enforcement and the 90% of the American people who support requiring a background check no matter where people buy the gun and no matter who they buy it from.

ATTACK: "Background checks don't work."

ATTACK: "Checks should not be strengthened because criminals will never submit to them."

  • That's like saying we should get rid of laws against drunk driving because people will never stop drinking and driving.
  • Even if one more dangerous person is stopped from getting a gun, it will matter to the family and to the community that would've been torn apart by the gun violence.
  • Criminals will try to avoid background checks, but that's why we need a law to make it harder for them to evade the system. Even if they fail a check, they can currently find a private seller online, at a gun show, or in a newspaper classified and buy a gun with no questions asked.
  • Instant background checks have stopped more than 2 million gun sales to dangerous people like convicted felons. So the check system works -- and we can make it work even better by closing the private sale loophole.

ATTACK: "These background check proposals ban private citizens from selling their guns or even giving them to family members."

  • Just like now, gun owners will be able to give their guns to family members. The legislative proposals on the table have exemptions to allow just that.
  • If gun owners want to temporarily lend out their guns for hunting or target shooting -- or in cases of imminent danger -- the proposals on the table have exemptions to allow that, too.
  • Just like now, private citizens will still be able to sell their guns -- just not to criminals and other dangerous people who fail their background check. These people should not be allowed to get guns, period.




  • Here's the private sale loophole: In more than 40 states, criminals and other people banned by law from buying guns can evade background checks by buying guns from unlicensed "private sellers" -- often at gun shows or through anonymous online transactions -- who are not required by federal law to conduct them. 
  • Closing the private sale loophole means requiring a background check for every gun sale and bringing private sellers into this system -- making the background check system work even better.
  • Poll after poll shows that 90% of the American people support closing the loophole and requiring universal background checks -- including about 75% of rank-and-file NRA members.
  • Nearly 90% of the rank-and-file NRA members agree that support for Second Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns away from criminals and other dangerous people.


  • An estimated 6.6 million guns are sold each year without a federal background check -- about 30-40% of gun transfers, according to the most recent data.
  • That 40% figure doubles when it comes to criminal use of firearms. A survey of prisoners who committed crimes with handguns found that 80% of them got those guns through private transfers. According to another national survey of inmates, only 12% of those who used a gun in a crime got it from a retail store or pawn shop, where a background check should have been run.
  • The Columbine killers got around the system by using guns bought at a gun show from an unlicensed seller: no paperwork, no questions asked.
We develop messaging by aggregating, analyzing and distilling polling, tested messaging, and expert recommendations, and monitoring the media to identify what is and isn't working. See here for some of the experts and organizations we draw on.


Posted in - Guns - Crime - Judiciary

Click to see the One-Pagers for selected date


Upcoming messaging opportunities

Click on the google icon to add this calendar to your Google calendar.