First of all, thanks to disinformation by anti-gun rights groups, most people think that all transfers at gun shows are done without background checks. In spite of all of the hype and lies, there is no such thing as a "gun show loophole". The exact same laws apply in gun shows as everywhere else. Dealers - who make most of the sales at gun shows - are required by federal law to do background checks. While private parties and federally licensed collectors are exempt under federal law, states and even gun show organizers often require private sellers at gun shows to do a background check through a dealer. Additionally, in spite of the outright lies of anti-gun rights groups - there is no such thing as an "unlicensed dealer" who is somehow not required to do background checks. While in many states people may legally sell their personal firearms, federal law prohibits anyone from "being in the business of selling firearms without a license". BATFE can and does prosecute people who do this. Finally, FBI research shows that gun shows are not a major source of crime guns - not surprising when you consider how many cops - local, state and federal - are present at a gun show.
So, what do people think about background checks at gun shows once they know the facts? Consider the response to this poll question:
When they are informed, a majority of those polled, oppose more restrictions on gun show sales.
Of course, the background check issue goes far beyond gun shows. The anti-gun rights crowd wants to require a background check on all transfers - including those between family members. In Colorado they passed a law that defined "transfer" so tightly that allowing a friend or family member to shoot your gun at the range could constitute an illegal transfer.
Any background check system is dependent upon an accurate database of prohibited persons. At this point the FBI is dependent upon the states to both identify criminals and the mentally ill, and report that information to the FBI for inclusion in the NICS database. The Virginia Tech shooting - in which the shooter passed two background checks in spite of a mental health commitment that banned him from legally owning guns for life - first brought to light the fact that states were simply not reporting mental health commitments. The NRA, to everyone's surprise, beat the gun control groups to the punch by proposing a federal law requiring states to report mental health commitments. Years later, many states are still catching up.
In their push for universal background checks, gun control advocates want you to ignore one terrible fact: in 100% of the recent high profile shootings, a background check was passed. In a couple of cases, the firearms were stolen - but in the vast majority of cases, the shooter simply walked in, bought the gun, passed the NICS check and walked out with it - this in spite of having displayed bizarre or alarming symptoms. In many cases they had multiple contacts with law enforcement - yet they were never sent in for mental health evaluation. Expanding background checks to private sales would have absolutely no effect on any of the mass shootings they are using as the reason to pass them. Of course, they really don't want you to know that.
Unless we address the mental health problem by identifying and treating dangerous people, any background check system is useless. Are anti-gun rights groups too stupid to know this? Or do they have other motives for wishing to make a critically flawed system "universal"?
Fortunately, when people are informed, once again the public gets it right.
Once they know that the system is flawed because of an inaccurate database, nearly two out of three people see fixing the database as a higher priority than truly "universal" background checks.
Finally, with gun control advocates pouring literally hundreds of millions of dollars into efforts to pass highly restrictive laws (by both initiatives and lobbying) - one would think that an accurate database would be their goal. Sadly, as with real security at schools, this does not seem to be their goal. It is, however, a priority in the mind of the public.
More than nine out of ten of those surveyed want the states to do a better job of reporting prohibited persons.
Finally, there is an issue that was not addressed in this poll: The fact the when prohibited persons do attempt to purchase a firearm through a licensed dealer (by lying on the form and thus committing a felony) and are detected, nothing is done beyond simply denying the purchase. Only 1 in 300 are prosecuted - Obama's new ATF director told Congress it was a waste of resources. When prohibited persons fail a background check, federal authorities do not even notify state and local authorities - this in spite of the fact that they might be able to either bring state charges or violate their parole. Instead, these criminals and mental ill violators are left on the street, free to buy guns on the black market and proceed with whatever their plan is. In at least one case, a person rejected by NICS bought a gun on the black market and then used it to kill a cop. If the goal is to save lives, why is arresting people who illegally attempt to buy guns "a waste of resources"?
I have a feeling that the public would also find this to be unacceptable. The bottom line is: Before we expand our background check system, we need to fix it.
Source poll reported here.