Background checks are the only systematic way to stop felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people from buying firearms. But federal law only requires background checks for gun sales at licensed dealers. An estimated 40 percent of all gun transfers take place between unlicensed people, often at gun shows or through online transactions, and are not subject to a background check under federal law. In 2012, approximately 6.6 million guns were transferred without a background check for the transferee.

Criminals and other prohibited gun buyers know how to exploit this loophole, and they do. A national survey of inmates found that nearly 80% of those who used a handgun in a crime acquired it in a private transfer.

The Internet has created a vast marketplace for guns where millions of buyers can easily find unlicensed sellers and buy guns in almost total anonymity. For example, in December 2012, there were more than 25,000 guns for sale on, which allows buyers to choose between unlicensed and licensed sellers. More than 85% of the listings were placed by private sellers who are not required under federal law to conduct a background check on buyers.

Closing this “private sale loophole” will reduce the number of guns that end up in dangerous hands, which is why ten national police organizations and more than 850 mayors support the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would require background checks for all gun sales, with reasonable exceptions.

Background checks take a couple minutes to complete, and they save lives. Since the system was created, it has blocked more than 1.9 million criminals, domestic abusers, seriously mentally ill people and other dangerous people from buying guns at licensed dealers.

And gun owners nationwide strongly support this common sense proposal: a 2012 survey by Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that 82% of gun owners–including 74% of NRA members–support criminal background checks for all gun sales.

Congress should pass The Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R. 1781/S. 436), pending since February 2011, which would close the private sale loophole at the federal level.