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Home > Blog > Explained: Background Checks and Purchasing Guns Online

Explained: Background Checks and Buying Guns Online

Explained: Background Checks and Buying Guns OnlineWhether you are looking to purchase a firearm yourself or you simply want to know more about the hype surrounding firearms and background checks in the United States, we have the information you need to know.

Is a Background Check Always Required When You Buy a Gun?

There are ways to buy guns in the United States without having to undergo a background check. For example, if you buy a gun from a person who is an independent seller and he or she lives in the same state as you, then you may not have to undergo a background check. But it depends on the state you live in, because some states do require background checks for private sales.

States requiring background checks for the private sales of all firearms include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. States requiring background checks for the private sales of handguns include: Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Can You Buy a Gun Online Without a Background Check?

Earlier this year, in January 2017, you may have heard President Barrack Obama say: “a felon can buy [a gun] over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked,” and you probably wondered if what he said is the truth.

People cannot buy guns online without background checks, because when people buy firearms from FFL dealers online, then they must pick up their guns from FFL dealers in person, and FFL dealers always require background checks. However, the Internet does allow people to connect with other people who are selling firearms online via marketplaces, like Armslist.com, auction sites, like Gunbroker.com, and classified ads on discussion boards, like Glocktalk.com.

If 2 people from the same state meet in person for a Private Sale, then a background check may not be required (see earlier section). The 2 people may have connected via the Internet, which is what President Obama was referring to, but Private Sales are not conducted through the web.

Why Do Background Checks Exist?

In 1968, the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. Because of this, the Gun Law of 1968 came into effect and it prohibited certain people from buying guns—people like fugitives, substance abusers, and people convicted of domestic violence crimes. The law also required retailers and individuals selling firearms to obtain FFLs (Federal Firearms Licenses) and meet certain requirements.

However, background checks were not required for gun purchases until 1993, when the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act passed. This law requires FFLs to run background checks on people buying guns through the NICS.

So You Walk Into a Gun Store…

You just walked through the doors of a gun store. You want to buy a gun—so what do you have to do?

First, you will be required to fill out a Form 4473 . This is a Firearms Transaction Record. The form consists of 16 questions relating to your background, drug use, and criminal history.

Next, the person working at the gun store will run your information through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS), which is maintained by the FBI, by phone or online along with your Social Security number. The background check typically takes approximately 30 seconds.

1. Approved: if nothing on your record prevents you from buying a firearm, then you can proceed with the purchase.

2. Denied: if something on your record disqualifies you, then you cannot buy a firearm.

You Cannot Buy a Gun If You…

· Were convicted of a crime that carried a sentence of more than 1 year or a misdemeanor that carried a sentence over 2 years

· Are a fugitive

· Are an addict

· Are diagnosed mentally ill, not guilty by reason of insanity, found unfit to stand trial, or involuntarily committed

· Reside in the United States illegally

· Were dishonorably discharged from the military

· Have a restraining order issued against you

· Are convicted of domestic violence

· Renounced your United States citizenship

3. Further Investigation Required: if something on your record requires investigation, then the FBI has 3 business days to get back to you. If the FBI does not get back to you within the 3 business days, then you can proceed with your purchase (Default Proceed rule).

Approximately 9% of gun sales in the U.S. require further investigation and FBI and ATF agents review the cases. In addition to the background check and filling out the Form 4473, gun purchasers must present proof of identity.

What Does the FBI Look For and Where Do They Look?

The FBI looks for criminal and mental health history, dishonorable military discharges, immigration status, whether someone is under indictment, and drug use. The most common reason for gun purchase denial is criminal conviction. Since the NICS has been online, nearly 150,000 fugitives, 120,729 domestic offenders, and 109,875 unlawful drug users have been denied the purchase of a gun. Only 21,000 people have been denied because they were declared mentally unfit by a judge.

Information is pulled from the Interstate Identification Index (database of criminal history records), National Crime Information Center (restraining orders), and the NICS Index (illegal immigrants and involuntarily committed to mental institutions). The NICS consults medical records submitted by each state and the FBI gets additional information from state and local police; however, state and local police are not required to submit criminal record data to the FBI.

Every state in the United States has its own gun background laws and only 21 states run their own background checks. States that conduct their own background checks can search records and databases in addition to those required by federal law to be searched. State databases typically have information that is unavailable to the FBI, like: mental health records, domestic violence restraining orders, final disposition records, and outstanding felony warrants.

Learn More About Buying Firearms Online

Visit the ‘How to Buy a Gun Online’ page on Discount Enterprises’ website to learn more about the online gun buying process. Reach out to our team with questions by calling us at 402-875-6500 or fill out our online contact form.