What Are Background Checks, and Why Does the NRA Oppose Them?


Contrary to popular belief, the NRA at one time supported universal background checks for all gun transactions in the United States. In the wake of the most recent high profile mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, the NRA has been adamant on protecting Americans' Second Amendment rights. In 1999, after the tragic Columbine High School shooting the NRA expressed their support for mandatory background checks. This week however, NRA president Wayne LaPierre told the Senate that the organization had a change of heart on the matter. In present day, why is the NRA so lax with background checks? It's apparent that they will shut down any opportunity for the fear of guns being taken away from Americans.

As the gun control debate continues in Washington and throughout the nation, so does the notion of the "Gun Show Loophole." According the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the loophole includes mandatory background checks on purchases from licensed gun dealers. However private sellers do not need to complete any formal paperwork and thus do not perform investigations on their customers. Unregulated purchases typically take place at gun expos and shows. 40% of all gun transactions in the country occur under the loophole.

The FBI sponsors the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). According to the FBI's website, over 100 million checks have been conducted in the past decade and over 700,000 denials have been made. Prior to the complete sale of a firearm(s), a licensed seller must contact the agency for a check to be performed on the prospective buyer.

The NRA was once on board with closing the Gun Show Loophole. In 1999, after the Columbine shooting, the NRA presented an intense public relations campaign with the slogan "Be Reasonable." The organization took out numerous ads in prominent national newspapers.

"We believe it's reasonable to provide for instant background checks at gun shows, just like gun stores and pawn shops," read a USA Today ad provided by the Huffington Post.

NRA CEO LaPierre reneged the lobby group's stance on the Gun Show Loophole when he spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

"My problem with background checks is you are never going to get criminals to go through universal background checks. And all the law-abiding people, you'll create an enormous federal bureaucracy, unfunded, hitting all the little people in the country, will have to go through it, pay the fees, pay the taxes," LaPierre argued.

LaPierre may need to reconsider his stance especially because public opinion holds other sentiments. Quinnipiac University released polling data they conducted in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In all three states the findings show that 9 out of 10 voters agree that more efforts should be made to close the Gun Show Loophole.

Based on this overwhelming support especially from Virginia, a notoriously conservative state, the NRA should reevaluate its opinion on the federal background check system. The NRA advocates the protection of the Second Amendment. But in order to prevent that right from being abused, mandatory background checks at gun shows must be enacted.