Background Checks for Firearms

Gun control software system specialists at InnovativeBCS discuss laws regulating the sale of firearms to private individuals

Gun control is not a new concept. Since the Gun Control Act of 1968, the federal government has been battling to control that only responsible adults possess fire arms.

Along with defining who can own firearms, a clear distinction was made between public and private sellers. The Gun Control Act of 1968 defined a private seller as anyone who sells no more than four firearms per year.

However, an appeal to the Gun Control Act of 1968 (the Firearms Owners Protection Act) redefined a private sell as anyone who did not rely on the sale of guns as their main means of income.

More recently, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and later the inception of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) combine together to instantly check for eligibility to purchase a firearm.

Before ringing up any firearm or explosives purchase, cashiers are required to call in a check to the FBI or other designated agencies. This is to ensure that the customer does not have a criminal record or is in any other way ineligible to make a purchase. Since beginning the background check program, more than 100 million checks have taken place in the last decade, which resulted in more than 700,000 denials.

Conditions that background checks look for to disqualify an individual from owning a firearm

There are numerous ways that the NICS can red flag a potential firearm purchaser. These include:

• Conviction of certain crimes
• Status as a fugitive from justice
• Illegal immigrant
• Dishonorable discharge from the military

Even with all the potential flags for denial of purchase, the NICS database is only as accurate as the information that it contains. Errors and omissions are bound to happen—even something as simple as a spelling mistake can prove disastrous. For this reason, along with ensuring that firearms are kept out of the hands of a potential dangerous person's hands, more attention needs to be paid to the data collection system itself. By making the information system more accurate, there will be less of a chance for error.

Besides the most common flags that a background check can deny the purchase of a firearm, two other examples are more controversial (for varying reasons): medical marijuana usage and mental illness.

For example, those who wish to qualify for medical marijuana in Illinois must first be fingerprinted, pass a background check and give up their right to own a firearm.

Another proposal would require those who are involuntarily committed to a mental institution (either in an outpatient or inpatient basis) would count under the law as “committed to a mental institution”. Hopes are that this will help states clarify the information that they input into the background check system. It will also help to more clearly keep track of who is barred from possessing a firearm.

The Gun Show Loophole

With all of the efforts to keep guns out of the hands of those who may be dangerous, gun shows are one area that isn't covered by existing law. Commonly known as the “gun show loophole,” some states do not have regulations in place to keep people with a criminal background from purchasing firearms at a gun show, flea market, internet sites or even social media sites.

Some states have decided to take it one step further than federal law. They require background checks at gun shows for any transaction—whether it needs a federal license or not.

Five states—with Colorado and Connecticut being the most recent—are now requiring stringent background checks for almost all gun purchases - even those purchased over the internet.

While a state may not require background checks for private vendors, the hosting venue for the even may require a check before purchase. Furthermore, some private vendors also opt to use a third-party licensed dealer run background checks even if they are not required by federal law.

Gun control and background checks (for various purposes) will continue to be hot button topics as they allow government influence into everyday life—something that not every person will always be happy with. Background checks are in place to make society safer.

Gun sellers are encouraged to use a comprehensive system that pulls info from a variety of local, state and federal databases. This goes a long way to ensuring a gun doesn't end up in the hands of those who are not qualified under federal law to purchase a firearm.

For more information about gun control or various background check policies (and software) please visit Innovative BCS, an exclusive online criminal background check framework for state and government agencies or contact us to discuss how we can help you tap into a secure, efficient and accurate background check system.