These Gun-Buying Loopholes Used Every Year Are Killing Us

Every day in America, an average of 93 people are killed by gun violence. In that same vein, homicides by guns in the U.S. are 25 times higher than any other developed country. Gang violence, mass shootings, and domestic violence homicides encompass the bulk of these statistics.

We all know that America is riddled with arguments and debates surrounding gun control. And understandably so. Many citizens believe the right to bear arms is closely tied to their freedom, and according to the Constitution, it is. On the other side of the fence, those in favor of more gun control typically reference the Second Amendment’s clause on the freedom to bear arms needing to be “well-regulated”.

So what is the problem? The problem is loopholes in gun laws. Closing these loopholes could make it harder for certain dangerous individuals to purchase firearms. Let’s take a look at the major gun-law loopholes that could use some attention from our state and federal officials.

1. Private sale loophole

Man sighting a rifle at a gun show

It’s totally legal to turn around and buy a gun from your neighbor. | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Forty percent of gun sales occur through a private sale. A licensed supplier could run a background check on a buyer and decline to sell them a firearm because they failed the background check. That same buyer could then turn right around and purchase a firearm from a private vendor. Think Craigslist or your neighbor.

Some states have tried to close this loophole and prevent firearm sales to criminally convicted or mentally ill individuals. For instance, California and Rhode Island require background checks on all firearm purchases. However, gun laws in many other states do not uphold the same standard for private sales, which inevitably allow guns to end up in the hands of unsuitable candidates.

2. Boyfriend loophole

a salesman in a blue shirt shows off a bump stock on a rifle

It seems reasonable that a domestic abuser can’t purchase a gun. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

According to the Violence Policy Center, 93% of women murdered by men are killed by someone they knew. The most common weapon of choice is a gun. Allow me to paint this picture for you. Back in the 90s, Congress passed the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. The ban prohibits domestic violence offenders from purchasing or possessing firearms. But there is a gaping hole in the ban.

Under federal law, if a woman in a marriage became a victim of domestic violence and effectively filed a restraining order against her husband, the husband would be flagged and unable to purchase a firearm. On the other hand, if the abuser was a boyfriend who the woman did not live or share a child with, the guilty boyfriend would not be flagged and could continue to purchase a firearm.

As it stands today, closing the boyfriend loophole rests on the shoulders of each state. Only 27 states have implemented laws to close the loophole in an effort to protect victims from gun-related domestic violence.

3. Default to proceed loophole

rows of guns in the UK

In some states, if the background check takes too long, they can go ahead and buy. | Scott Barbour/Getty Images.

When it comes to purchasing a firearm from a licensed supplier, a background check is conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — NICS. Ninety percent of the time, NICS background checks provide conclusive answers within two minutes or less. Here’s where the loophole comes into play. Under federal law, if the answer to a background check has not occurred within three days, a firearm supplier may choose to proceed with the sale.

Due to this default to proceed loophole, nearly 4,000 prohibited purchasers were able to buy a firearm in 2012. As it stands, 18 states have addressed the default to proceed loophole by enacting longer waiting periods. For example, in Utah a firearm cannot be transferred until the background check is 100% complete.

4. Mental health loophole

Guns on wall

People who have mental illnesses are still being allowed to buy guns. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Per federal law, individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital or presumed to be mentally defective are not allowed to purchase a firearm. Presently, the loopholes that surround gun purchases by the mentally ill exist due to the broad spectrum of mental illness not being identified.

In order to close the mental health loopholes, some states have taken action to identify  broader categories of mental illness. However, the vast majority of states still allow guns to be sold to individuals who have been voluntarily admitted to a mental hospital, have demonstrated threats or have been given other mental health diagnoses, as well as to individuals who have guardians managing their affairs.

5. Automatic grandfather loophole

an AR-15 on the wall at a gun store

You’re legally allowed if you bought an automatic weapon before ’86.| Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Under federal law, newly manufactured automatic weapons are illegal to possess. To be clear, automatic weapons will continuously fire ammunition as long as it’s available and the trigger is held — a machine gun. But here’s the loophole. If you owned an automatic firearm prior to May 19, 1986, you’re in the clear. Furthermore, the private sale of automatic weapons crafted prior to that 1986 date is perfectly legal.

6. Bump stock loophole

a bump stock on a gun close-up

A bump stock turns a semi-automatic into an automatic — legally. | George Frey/Getty Images

When Stephen Paddock opened fire from his Mandalay Bay room in Las Vegas, he killed 58 individuals and injured more than 480. Among the guns recovered from Paddock’s hotel room, 12 were modified with legal bump stocks. Bump stocks are modifications created to fit guns such as an AR-15. This modification enables a gun to become automatic.

Automatic guns may be illegal here in the U.S., but that doesn’t stop gun owners from enhancing semi-automatic weapons with bump stocks and trigger cranks. These modifications allow owners to legally bypass prohibition against automatic weapons.

7. ‘I forgot to enter the report into the database’ loophole

police block a road with police tape in sutherland springs, texas

Because of a slip up, 26 people died. | Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images

Devin P. Kelley entered Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in November 2017 and killed 26 innocent people. After passing background checks, Kelley purchased two firearms from an Academy Sports in 2016 and 2017. This all transpired after Kelley was kicked out of the Air Force and sentenced to one year in prison for domestic abuse against his wife and child.

What gives? The Air Force has admitted to neglecting to enter Kelley’s domestic abuse conviction into the NICS database. This major flaw in the system highlights a larger issue. According to the National Rifle Association, nearly 7 million criminal convictions, mental illness diagnoses, and other red flags have not been reported to NICS. The breakdown in this system proves the inadequacy of the NICS is leaving gaping holes in the safety of firearm sales.

8. Can the loopholes be closed?

a display of assault rifles on a wood wall beneath an American flag

It will take politicians standing up to the NRA. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Brady Law were created to limit the accessibility of firearms to criminals and those diagnosed with a mental illness. Luckily, the gaping loopholes of these laws have been closed by some states. You see, the myths surrounding gun control send the message that gun control equals someone coming in and taking your guns. That’s not the reality. The reality surrounding gun control hinges on the dangerous loopholes being closed through both federal and state legislation.

Even though many states have taken matters into their own hands, the National Rifle Association’s deep pockets and powerful lobbying efforts prevent the forward movement of more protectionary gun control.

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