When private sales are conducted without background checks, as federal law currently allows, those sales cut off police leads and turn cases cold. Almost 60 percent of ATF trace investigations involve secondhand guns, which are difficult to trace because unlicensed sellers are not required by federal law to keep records of the transfers.
Evidence demonstrates that background checks save lives. For example, in the fourteen states that already require background checks for all handgun sales:
- Gun trafficking is 48 percent lower than in states that fail to require background checks for all handgun sales.
- In 2010, the rate of women murdered by an intimate partner with a gun was 38 percent lower than in other states, while the rate murdered by other means was nearly identical.
- The firearm suicide rate was 49 percent lower than in other states, even though people committed suicide in other ways at almost precisely the same rate.
Recent polls by Mayors Against Illegal Guns showed likely voters in a wide range of states and congressional districts overwhelmingly support background checks for all gun sales. The average support for background checks for all gun sales among 41 congressional district polls was 89 percent; the average among 21 statewide polls was 86 percent. The findings of these surveys can be found
. These findings are in line with recent independent polls that have found
more than 90 percent
of Americans support background checks for all buyers. Previous
polling by Republican Frank Luntz
for Mayors Against Illegal Guns also found that 82 percent of gun owners – including 74 percent of National Rifle Association members – support requiring criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a gun.
Statements from Participating Law Enforcement Leaders (in order of appearance)
Chief Jim Johnson ( Baltimore County, Maryland)
"We are long overdue for strengthening our nation's gun laws, and the consequences of our inaction thus far have been tragic. It's time for Congress to follow the will of the American public and law enforcement officials across the country by enacting commonsense safety measures, like criminal background checks for all gun sales. Our leaders must take meaningful action to help end the bloodshed in our communities."
Captain Perry Tarrant ( Tucson, Arizona)
"In Tucson, we've seen just how devastating it can be when guns fall into the wrong hands. To protect our communities, our police officers, and our children, it's crucial that we do everything in our power to keep guns away from dangerous people. Background checks do just that, and by extending them to cover all gun sales we can help save lives nationwide."
Deputy Chief William Nagle ( Denver, Colorado)
's law enforcement officers have been witness to some of the worst mass shootings in our country's history, but that hasn't broken our resolve to protect our citizens. The Colorado General Assembly recently passed a series of reforms that will help our officers better preserve the safety of the public, but gun violence is a national problem that requires a national solution. Congress must act now before more lives are lost."
Chief Terrence Cunningham ( Wellesley, Massachusetts)
"Background checks are not only a preventative measure to stop criminals from obtaining deadly weapons – they're also a critical law enforcement tool that help us solve crimes and keep our streets safe. Police officers across the country are risking their lives every day to protect our communities from the dangers of gun violence. We need our elected officials in
to do their part by passing this sensible reform."
Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo ( Houston, Texas)
The Second Amendment protects the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, and background checks don't limit or diminish that right whatsoever. Federal law already prohibits felons, the severely mentally ill, and domestic violence offenders from buying guns – it's only common sense that we check all potential buyers to see if they're prohibited. We need our leaders in
to do the sensible thing by requiring background checks for all gun sales."
Joseph Akers, Executive Director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Alexandria, Virginia
Our gun laws are currently riddled with dangerous loopholes that make it all too easy for criminals and the severely mentally ill to purchase guns with no paperwork and no questions asked. That means more dangerous people get armed, more innocent people are killed, and more law enforcement officers end up shot in the line of duty. The situation is inexcusable, and the fix is simple. Background checks work, but Congress must ensure they are required for each and every gun sale."
Chief Joseph H. Lumpkin, Sr. ( Athens- Clarke County, Georgia)
"Requiring background checks for every gun sale is the most effective way to stop criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill from getting armed in the first place. It's no wonder why the overwhelming majority of Georgians support universal background checks. We need our elected officials in Congress to stand with the people they represent and vote to pass mandatory background checks that will help keep our communities out of the line of fire."
Chief Dwight Henninger ( Vail, Colorado)
"Background checks on firearm purchasers are important for public safety and the safety of our officers and deputies. Background checks are a point we can all agree on in the effort to reduce gun violence, and most importantly, they save lives."
Chief Susan Riseling, Executive Committee Member, International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
"Nobody knows the dangers of armed criminals better than America's police officers, who must combat the scourge of illegal guns every day on the streets of our communities. But law enforcement can't win the fight alone. Congress must pass the commonsense safety measures that the overwhelming majority of Americans support. We can preserve the Second Amendment and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous and mentally unstable people. "
Michael N. Webster, Director of Campus Safety at McDaniel College ( Westminster, MD)
"Tragedies on our nation's campuses might have been averted by universal background checks; background checks which almost all Americans support. Congress owes Americans this protection."
About Mayors Against Illegal Guns
Since its inception in
, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown from 15 mayors to more than 900 mayors from across the country. We have more than 1.4 million grassroots supporters, making us the largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization in the country. The bipartisan coalition, co-chaired by
New York City
, has united the nation's mayors around these common goals: protecting their communities by holding gun offenders and irresponsible gun dealers accountable; demanding access to trace data that is critical to law enforcement efforts to combat illegal gun trafficking; and working with legislators to fix gaps, weaknesses and loopholes in the law that make it far too easy for criminals and other prohibited purchasers to get guns. Learn more at
Philip J. Cook
, Guns in America, 1996, available at
. 2,568 individuals, including 251 gun owners, were surveyed by telephone and asked how they obtained their firearms.
 In the 38 states that have not fully closed the private sale loophole, an estimated 9,856,984 background checks were conducted between
, out of an estimated 16.5 million total firearm transfers in those states. 40 percent of this total—6.6 million transfers—occurred without background checks. Calculation based on FBI data. Available:
 U.S. Department of Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,
Following the Gun: Enforcing Federal Laws Against Firearms Traffickers,
2000, available at:
, "Effects of State-Level Firearm Seller Accountability Policies on Firearm Trafficking," Journal of Urban Health,
 U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2011.