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Universal background checks

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 8:16pm

As the gun control debate rages in Washington, one proposal that seems to be gaining traction is the idea of a universal background check. But exactly what does that mean?

There have been several restrictions on gun ownership over the years, but the one that most gun purchasers will encounter is the background check as part of the Brady Law. It’s called form 4473.

You must answer a series of questions to determine if you are a qualified person for gun ownership. Then the store owner calls the FBI and a criminal records check is done, usually in a matter of a couple of minutes.

The exception is if I want to sell you my gun. I can put an ad in the paper, or go to a gun show. No check is required. Which means a felon can buy a gun, and they do.

After the Columbine High School massacre, the National Rifle Association endorsed universal back ground checks. That was 1999, but the NRA has reversed that position today.

A universal background check would plug that loophole, but in reality, it would only be enforceable at gun shows, or with some restriction on newspaper advertising and social media.

" You will not walk out of here with a weapon without going through an FBI background check and there's nothing legally binding, stopping you from walking out in the parking lot and buying one from someone. Generally any person to person sales are legal. If you sell a gun to your next door neighbor, how do you know he's not a felon?" says gun dealer Shane Cook.

If you buy from an internet site, it has to be sent to a Federal Firearms Licensee, who will do the check.  The obvious problem is, if you buy from a friend or neighbor, enforcing the check is essentially impossible.

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