The Top 5 Things We Can Learn From Washington State’s Universal Background Checks For Gun Owners

Gun control is a sizzling topic in the United States, but for all the heat behind the arguments, only one state braved the backlash and put a gun control measure on its November ballot.

Initiative 594, approved by 59% of voters, expands background check requirements to private gun sales. Often referred to as universal background checks, the law mandates background checks on all sales and transfers, including private or personal loans and gifts. Voters in the same election also turned down a separate measure that would’ve prevented extending background checks.

The passage of the new law means Washington joins six other states plus Washington, D.C. requiring universal background checks for all sales and transfers of firearms. Advocates for gun control say the law, and others like it, fill in the gaps in the unclear language of the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act. Until that time, federal law defined private sellers as anyone who sold no more than 4 guns per year as written in the Gun Control Act of 1968. Advocates for gun control have long lobbied that the language in these two laws is vague and confusing, and that background checks should be required for any private sale, even those at gun shows and through the web. That’s why more states may follow Washington’s lead and leave the decision up to voters in upcoming elections.

Until then, laws like Initiative 594 are under heaps of scrutiny. Will they work? How will they be enforced? How do they affect private business owners? Here’s five things we can all learn from Washington state’s universal background check law:

Gun sales go bananas during Black Friday and the rest of the holiday shopping season.

Forget flat screen TV’s and trendy tablets, gun sales are the items that really boom on Black Friday. This year the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ran more than three background checks per second during the largest retail sales day in our country thanks to record firearms sales. Apparently, buying guns on Black Friday has become a new American tradition with a combined nearly 300,000 background checks run over the previous two post-Thanksgiving shopping days (2012 and 2013). This means the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is stretched to its max. In fact, NICS performed three background checks per second on Black Friday.

Some gun buyers can still purchase firearms without any background check.

Despite its record numbers, the FBI still wasn’t able to keep up with every gun sale and that means some buyers were able to walk away with a new firearm without having a background check performed. How? Federal law allows NICS researchers only three business days to determine whether or not a potential buyer is eligible. If NICS is overwhelmed to the point where they just can’t keep up with volume and the three-day window passes without federal response, the buyer can still legally purchase his gun. This happens in roughly 2% of the checks handled by the FBI.

Statistics are murky so don’t believe everything you read or hear.

This is true for so many things in life but stats in the gun control debate are especially twisted depending on which side is presenting them. The best advice we have here is to do your own research and compare statistics and information from both sides of the argument.

When it comes to questions about background checks, though, we encourage you to reach out to our experts. Active Screening has some of the top investigative and compliance researchers in the nation and we pride ourselves at staying on top of trends and laws that pertain to your organizational needs. If you have questions about your own background check results, seek us out, too.

Initiative 594 had some heavy-hitting investors.

Big money talks in every election, none more so than when touchy topics are being left in the hands of voters. Gun control advocates wasted no expense in the Washington election with Bill and Melinda Gates and Michael Bloomberg ponying up plenty of cash. On the flip side, gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association raised more than $2 million for their cause (they were still greatly outnumbered by gun control advocates, though).

Some states are moving opposite Washington and approving gun rights amendments.

Count Alabama and Missouri among the states that are re-affirming that the right to bear arms is a “fundamental right.” Voters approved amendments that offer more legal protections for gun rights and gun owners. Click here for a list of 10 state laws that help protect gun ownership and use.

What are your thoughts on background checks for gun owners? Are you surprised at the amount of guns being sold on Black Friday? Do you see more states jumping on Washington’s bandwagon or will more state lawmakers move to approve gun rights amendments?

We’d love to hear from you so leave us a comment below!


This entry was posted in Background Screening, General, News, References & Credentialing and tagged , , , , , by Patricia Carlson. Bookmark the permalink.

Patricia Carlson is a content writer who specializes in B2C and B2B inbound marketing. She blogs regularly for clients about the background screening and finance industries, and generates newsletters, white papers and email campaigns for a variety of businesses. Patricia also produces a heavy rotation of editorial material for home design, law enforcement, and family magazines. She’s been writing professionally for more than a dozen years, and for Active Screening for more than two of those. Check out LinkedIn for a roster of Patricia's clients and links to published works. When she’s not interviewing sources or researching trends, she’s living a fast-paced Florida life questioning the antics of her two young children, partner and mischievous cat. Patricia loves to talk tennis and TV on Twitter - give her a shout @pattycfreelance.
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