What are Universal Background Checks?
Currently, federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to conduct background checks on gun purchases to make sure that the purchaser is not prohibited from buying a firearm. However, in some states, unlicensed sellers, like those at gun shows or on the Internet, are not required to do so, leaving a dangerous loophole that allows prohibited purchasers to access deadly weapons.
In November 2014, Washington State voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative 594, making Washington the first state to close the background check loophole by a popular vote. Today, 18 states require background checks on at least some private sales.
In 2016, Governor Inslee issued an Executive Order directing the Office of Financial Management to conduct an unprecedented analysis of the overall background check system, while requesting that the Attorney General’s Office dedicate additional resources to addressing individuals whose background checks are denied.
97% of Americans support requiring a background check for all gun sales.
Background Checks Save Lives
The simple fact is that states with a strong background check system see far lower rates of specific types of gun violence compared to those with a background check loophole. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, states with universal background checks see:
- 46% fewer women shot to death by intimate partners
- 48% fewer law enforcement officers killed with handguns
- 48% fewer trafficked firearms
Additionally, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that after Missouri repealed its background check law, the state’s murder rate increased by 14 percent with 49-68 additional murders per year attributed to the repeal of the law.