First, let me explain how existing gun laws work, and why the intersection of federal and state laws creates a "swiss cheese" patchwork that opens a lot of loopholes. First, federal law creates disqualifying criteria for possession of a firearm. These include: 1) conviction for a crime punishable by 1+ year 2) fugitive of justice; 3) unlawful drug user or drug addict; 4) adjudicated as mental defective or committed to a mental institution; 5) illegal alien; 6) member of military with dishonorable discharge; 7) anyone who has renounced their U.S. citizenship; 8) subject to a court order threatening a family member; 9) convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence.
Federal law requires anyone who purchases a firearm from a *federally licensed firearm dealer* to undergo a background check for these disqualifying criteria. Sounds cool right? Here's the problem(s):
PROBLEM #1: Not all people buy their firearms from federally licensed firearms dealers. Some people buy them in private transfers, to which (current) *federal law* does not apply. This means that right now it us up to the states to extend the same check for private sales.
Only 12 states requires background checks at the point of transfer for all firearms: CA, CO, CT, DE, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA, and D.C. Two states requires background checks for all transfers for handguns only: MD and PA. So when we are talking about "universal background checks," we are talking about creating a *federal law* that forces the other 36 states to extend EXISTING background checks to *private sales* -- which would prevent PEOPLE WITH ALREADY DISQUALIFYING CRITERIA from getting guns.
PROBLEM #2: Federal background checks are conducted by checking a person's criminal history through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, most of the disqualifying criteria occur at the *state* level (e.g., drugs, mental illness, dom violence)
NICS is only as effective as the information that STATES report to it. This doesn't always happen. So, you say, why not just make states run people through their databases too? Well, the feds tried. But in a SCOTUS case in 1997, called Printz v. United States, the Court held that for federalism reasons (under the 10th Amendment), the feds cannot "commandeer" state and local law enforcement to enforce federal law. States must "volunteer" to do it. (Interestingly, current sanctuary cities rely on Printz...so, states' rights baby!) Only 13 states voluntarily provide a state "point of contact" (POC) to provide an additional layer of checks against their databases: CA, CO, CT FL, HI, IL, NE, NJ, OR, PA, TN, UT, and VA. 8 states are "partial POCS" (some guns only): IA, MD, MI, NC, NE, NH, WA, WI
PROBLEM #3: Stolen guns are disproportionately used in crime: People who can legally by guns can pose as straw purchasers for disqualified and/or use them to traffic guns. So it would make sense to require stolen firearms to be reported, right? Only 9 states require the mandatory reporting of stolen firearms: CA, CT, DE, IL, MD, MA, MI, NJ, NY, OH, RI and D.C. Only two impose liability on stolen firearms: NJ and WA (as of July of this year)