Universal Background Checks
1296 (Sponsored by Rep. Osterman)
2026 (Sponsored by Sen. Kotowski)
does it mean?
Under federal law, anyone who wants to engage in the business
of selling firearms must obtain a federal firearms license. The Brady
Handgun Violence Prevention Act (the Brady Act) requires a federal
firearms licensee (FFL) to contact the Federal Bureau of
Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
when selling a firearm, which ensures that the purchaser is not
prohibited from possessing firearms. However, the Brady Act does not
apply to the sale of firearms by non-licensees (i.e., private
Every year, thousands of gun sales occur by unlicensed
sellers without background checks on the purchasers. This “private sale
loophole” results in guns getting into the hands of criminals who would
otherwise not be able to buy firearms. Requiring background checks for
all private sales will reduce illegal trafficking and treat all
What would it really do?
By requiring those who privately sell or transfer handguns to do so at the business of a federally licensed firearm dealer, who must then conduct a background check on the recipient, SB 3709 ensures that the transaction will be subject to all other applicable federal, state, and local laws. Exceptions include transfers of a firearm between spouses, from parent to child or grandparent to grandchild. Transfers at gun shows are also exempt, as they are already subject to background checks pursuant to state law.1
In addition, under SB 3709, any person who knowingly sells or gives firearms to street gang members would be guilty of a Class 1 felony.
For the full text and status of these bills, click on the following links:
HB 1296 (Sponsored by Rep. Osterman)
SB 2026 (Sponsored
by Sen. Kotowski)
What does the public think?
- Nine in 10 Illinois voters support mandating background checks on all gun sales, including private sales, with three in four voters strongly supporting such a measure. There is wide support for universal background checks among Republicans (85%), gun owners (79%), and NRA members (70%). To read more polling results from the 2009 Voter Survey on Gun Regulations, click here.
April 2008 a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and The
Tarrance Group survey, on behalf of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, found
that 87% of Americans support background checks.2
- According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll in June 2008, 88% of Americans favor government’s efforts to prevent convicted felons and people with mental health problems from owning guns.3
What are the facts?
In 2007, there were 8.7 million applications for firearm transfers or permits in the U.S. About 136,000 (1.6%) of the applications were rejected by the FBI and state or local agencies. A felony conviction or indictment, a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction or restraining order, and other criminal history were the most common reasons for rejection by the FBI and by state or local agencies.4
- Nationwide, 40% of gun transactions occur through unlicensed sellers and no-questions-asked private deals that require no background checks5
- A 2000 report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that unlicensed sellers were involved in about one-fifth of trafficking investigations and associated with nearly 23,000 illegal guns.6
Roughly 20% of gun trafficking investigations involve transfers by unlicensed sellers who are not required to conduct a background check.7
- In 2008, background checks conducted at federally licensed gun stores and gun shows in Illinois detected 914 Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card holders who had fallen into a prohibited purchaser category since obtaining a FOID card (up from 859 in 2007, a 6% increase). Thanks to background checks, these individuals were denied guns.8
Have Other States or Jurisdictions Enacted Similar
California, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia require
background checks for all private gun sales. Connecticut and
Pennsylvania require background checks on all private handgun sales.
Maryland requires background checks on private transfers of “regulated
firearms,” which include handguns and assault weapons. California has
the most comprehensive law, requiring that every firearm sale,
including those by private sellers, is subject to a background check
conducted by a licensed dealer.9
Closing the “private sale loophole” for handgun sales
would mean that all handgun buyers are treated equally, so
that they would be subject to the same requirements whether they buy
from a licensed gun shop, at a gun show, or from a private seller. This
would help ensure that persons buying handguns are legally eligible to
do so, and it would also help law enforcement track the owners of
weapons used in crimes.
430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.
Greenlan Quilan Rosner Research & The Tarrance Group,
Americans Support Common Sense Measures to Cut Down on Illegal Guns,
CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, Most Americans Say Constitution
Guarantees Right to Own a Gun, Latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation
Poll Shows, June 2008.
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.
Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2007 – Statistical Tables
Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig.
Guns in America: National Survey on
Private Ownership and Use of Firearms, National Institute of Justice
Research in Brief, May 1997
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Department of the Treasury,
Following the Gun: Enforcing Federal Laws Against Firearm Traffickers
8 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2007 – Statistical Tables.
Legal Community Against Violence,
Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State and Selected Local Gun Laws, 2008 Edition; Violence Policy Center, Closing the Gun Show Loophole: Principles for Effective Legislation, Feb. 2001