Every day on the news we learn about another instance of gun violence. America has a gun problem. The recent shooting in Odessa highlights the need for a stronger background check system that will ensure that every purchase requires a background check.
In 2014, the Odessa shooter tried to buy a gun from a licensed dealer but failed a background check for a “disqualifying mental health issue.” That should have been it. He shouldn’t have been able to get his hands on an AR-style long gun and murder 7 people and injure 22 others. Unfortunately, the shooter knew he could find his way around a background check. He decided to purchase his gun in a private sale, which did not require a background check.
Federal law requires background checks for gun sales at federally licensed dealers, but it leaves the regulation of private sales, or sales from unlicensed dealers, to the states. Some states require background checks on all private sales; some like Pennsylvania require background checks for the private sale of handguns but not long guns. (So if this shooter had been in PA and failed a background check, he could have found a way to buy that same gun without a background check in a private sale here.) And some, like Texas, do not require background checks for any private sales.
We must take action and close these deadly private sales loopholes.
Every gun sale should require a background check. Earlier this year, the U.S. House passed HR 8, which would close the private sales loopholes. The Senate version of that bill S 42 is sitting and waiting for action. There has been some talk about reviving the 2013 Manchin-Toomey bill, which addressed some of the issues with our background check system but which would not completely close the private sales loopholes. Read our full bill analysis. We believe it is time for a strong background check bill that closes loopholes and ensures a background check for every sale. That’s why we have been urging Senator Toomey to support S 42.
Background checks save lives. They stop those who should not have guns from obtaining them. But as long as the private sales loopholes stay open, prohibited purchasers have a way to obtain guns.