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Universal Background Checks: Talking Points

Talking Points: HF694/SF894 (Universal Background Checks)

The most dangerous gap in firearms laws today is the “private seller” loophole. Although federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks in all gun sales, it does not require unlicensed private sellers to do so. This makes it easy for convicted criminals, gang members and domestic abusers to buy guns illegally.

Criminal background checks are effective because they don’t depend on criminals to follow the law. Instead, they depend on licensed dealers and private sellers to follow the law and protect them from prosecution when they do. Most gun dealers and private sellers are law-abiding.

Summary of the Bill

  • Expands Minnesota’s current Permit to Purchase law to private gun sellers.
  • Applies only to sales of handguns and military-style assault weapons. Does not apply to long guns.
  • Under this law, buyers will obtain a permit to purchase from the police — which includes a criminal background check– and bring it to any seller to prove they are eligible to purchase a firearm. Straw buyers and prohibited purchasers are much less likely to lie to law enforcement than to a gun dealer.
  • Records of sales are kept by the seller—NOT the state. This law will protect private sellers from prosecution if a gun they sell is later used in a crime, as long as they can show proof that the buyer had a valid permit to purchase.
  • Includes exemptions for transfers of handguns and assault rifles between family members, educational use, and temporary loans of handguns and assault rifles for hunting. Again, this bill does not apply to long guns.
  • Passage of this bill will NOT hamper the ability of law-abiding Minnesotans to purchase firearms, raise the minimum age to purchase a gun in Minnesota, limit the number of firearms an individual may purchase at one time, or create a state registry of gun owners.


Support for the Bill

An overwhelming 84% of Minnesota voters favor mandatory criminal background checks on all gun sales, including those sold privately and at gun shows. (Star Tribune, October 2019)

Support for comprehensive background checks nationally is almost universal–97% among gun owners and non-gun owners alike. (Quinnipiac University, February 2018)

Effectiveness of Background Checks

No single law will stop all gun violence, but criminal background checks have been proven to save lives, especially when part of a permit to purchase system. In a 2017 survey, a panel of 32 scholars of criminology, public health and law rated universal background checks as the most effective policy to prevent gun deaths, ranking it #1 of 29 possible gun-related policies. (Quoctrung Bui & Margot Sanger-Katz, How to Prevent Gun Deaths? Where Experts and the Public Agree, New York Times (January 10, 2017)

Two recent studies provide evidence that background checks and permit to purchase laws make a huge difference.

Researchers found that a 1995 Connecticut law requiring gun buyers to get permits including background checks was associated with a 40% decline in gun homicides and a 15% drop in suicides.

When researchers studied Missouri’s 2007 repeal of its permit to purchase law, they found an associated increase in gun homicides by 23%, and a 16% increase in suicides. (NPR, January 9, 2016.



Duluth Roundtable

Please join Protect Minnesota later this month in Duluth for an important conversation. As we’re gearing up for the 2023 elections and the 2024 legislative session, it’s more important than ever that the gun violence prevention community has the chance to connect with each other, share our priorities, and voice our hopes for the coming months and years.

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