In Minnesota, people who buy handguns or assault weapons at gun shows, swap meets, garage sales or through ads in newspapers and online do not have to have a criminal background check; only if a potential buyer goes to a federally licensed gun store is a background check required. This enormous "loophole" puts guns in the hands of people who intend to use them for illegal and often deadly purposes, in Minnesota and other states.
A bill now before the Minnesota Legislature (HF 3324) would require a background check for anyone buying a pistol or assault weapon in Minnesota — no matter where they make that purchase. This bill would help keep guns out of the hands of those who plan to do harm and give law-enforcement officials a better chance at protecting the public.
Would background checks really help?
The federal Brady Law requires that federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) conduct background checks on gun sales.
The Brady Law does not apply to gun sales within Minnesota from private sellers.
Minnesota requires individuals to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun, but only FFLs are required to view those permits before selling a gun. (Although, in some cases, private sellers may suffer a penalty if the buyer was a prohibited purchaser and commits a crime within a year using that gun.)
Minnesota requires identification be shown when a private seller sells a gun to a stranger. However, there is no penalty imposed on the seller for breaking that law.
Minnesota does not require records to be kept of private sales of guns.
Gun Shows & Newspaper Ads
Many gun shows in Minnesota have some sellers who are not federally licensed dealers.
Many Minnesota newspapers accept classified ads for private gun sales.
Anyone in Minnesota who is prohibited from purchasing a firearm (i.e. teenagers, felons, domestic abusers, etc.) can easily go to a gun show or look through classified ads and purchase a gun without being asked for ID or undergoing a background check. These guns can be resold on the streets and become very difficult to trace.
What can be done?
- Require background checks for private gun sales in Minnesota.
- Ask newspapers not to allow classified ads for guns.