President Obama Highlights Need for Improvements to Background Check System

Posted on July 27, 2012

On Wednesday, July 25, in a speech to the Urban League in New Orleans, President Obama broke his silence on America’s gun violence epidemic and the need for significant improvements to our nation’s firearms laws. In his remarks, the president highlighted the severe dangers posed by gaps in the federal background check system and easy access to assault rifles.

We agree with the president, that a person’s criminal record should checked before every gun purchase. Right now, however, that simply isn’t happening. As the graphic below indicates, the federal background check requirement does not apply to private sales of firearms, which account for about 40% of all gun sales in America every year. That means that it is far too easy for convicted criminals, the mentally ill, and other dangerous people to gain access to firearms.

Background Checks for Guns

40% of gun sales require no background check.1 Background checks prevented sales of firearms to 1.8 million prohibited people between 1994 and 2008.2

The president’s acknowledgment of the the need for stronger laws to reduce gun violence is a critical first step toward making serious changes. Still, more is desperately needed. We have real gaps in our gun laws and what we need is actionreal action, not just speeches – to make Americans safer from gun violence.

  1. Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig, Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms, U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice Research in Brief 6-7 (May 1997). []
  2. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2008 – Statistical Tables. []