Criminal Background Checks for Firearm Sales

Since 1998, federal law has required that criminal background checks take place for all firearms sales and transfers by licensed dealers in all 50 US states, DC and five US territories to ensure that weapons are not sold to people prohibited from having them.[1]The five US territories are American Samoa, Guam, the Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information … Continue reading

Between November 1998 and August 2022, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has made 432,366,543 checks on people who want to own a firearm or explosives.[2]US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, “NICS Firearm Background Checks: Month/Year, November 30, 1998 – August 31, … Continue reading In that time, there have been approximately 1.5 million denials.[3]US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, “National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS),” fbi.gov, accessed on … Continue reading

Under federal law, any person is prohibited from possessing a firearm or explosives if they:[4]US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, “NICS Operational Report 2020-2021,” fbi.gov, April 2022

  • Have been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year — 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
  • Are a fugitive from justice — 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(2).
  • Are an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance — 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3).
  • Have been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution — 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4).
  • Are illegally or unlawfully in the United States — 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5).
  • Have been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions — 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(6).
  • Having been a citizen of the United States, have renounced U.S. citizenship — 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(7).
  • Are subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner — 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8).
  • Have been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV) — 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9).
  • Are under indictment/information for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year — 18 U.S.C. § 922(n).

While these statistics give an idea as to the numbers of people who wish to own a firearm in the United States, they do not give a definitive number of the number of guns sold as federal law does not require background checks for guns sold by unlicensed sellers or in private transfers. Only 21 states and DC have closed this loophole using state or local law.[5]Everytown for Gun Safety, “Background Checks,” everytownresearch.org, accessed on September 21, 2022

Last updated September 2022

References

References
1 The five US territories are American Samoa, Guam, the Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, “NICS Participation Map,” fbi.gov, July 2021 and US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, “National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS),” fbi.gov, accessed on September 21, 2022.
2 US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, “NICS Firearm Background Checks: Month/Year, November 30, 1998 – August 31, 2022,” fbi.gov, accessed on September 21, 2022
3 US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, “National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS),” fbi.gov, accessed on September 21, 2022
4 US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, “NICS Operational Report 2020-2021,” fbi.gov, April 2022
5 Everytown for Gun Safety, “Background Checks,” everytownresearch.org, accessed on September 21, 2022