Half of the people incarcerated in Nevada’s prisons got their guns illegally.
This isn't backroom, cloak-and-dagger dealing. They just open their computers or devices, and go to any number of online websites that sell guns via private means.
Under Nevada state law, a private seller can request that a private purchaser go through a background check, but it is not required.
It is illegal to sell a firearm to ex-felons, people in the country illegally, fugitives and people who have been adjudicated as mentally ill.
Supporters of the expanded background check say if a seller doesn't do a background check, he may not know if that person is prohibited from having a gun.
Ted Alcorn is the director of research for Everytown for Gun Safety. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that the best estimates indicate 40 percent of gun sales around the country are not subject to background checks.
Alcorn said selling a gun online without a background check attracts people who know they wouldn't pass the check.
“When you’re offering a firearm without a background check that is a signal to the folks out there who can’t pass a background check and get a gun from a dealer that that’s an open door for them to get armed,” he said.
The group conducted an undercover investigation to find people with criminal backgrounds asking for guns. According to Alcorn, the group looked at four websites offering online gun sales in Nevada.
They found 200 people looking for guns to buy and performed background checks on them. Of those 200, 20 would have been prohibited from buying a gun.
Alcorn said one person who was seeking a gun had been convicted of shooting three people in Reno.
“If you’re selling a firearm on one of these websites, you have a one in 11 chance of putting into the hands of someone who shouldn’t have it,” Alcorn said.
People opposed to an expanded background check point out that criminals will find a way to buy a gun anyway, but Alcorn dismissed that argument.
"The reason we have laws is not to prevent all kinds of crime but to deter those certain behaviors," he said, "We live in a nation of laws because it works."
He said states that have expanded background checks have seen lower rates of gun-related domestic violence, gun trafficking and use of a firearm in suicide.
Alcorn said in Colorado, where lawmakers closed the online gun sales loophole in 2014, 700 people who tried to buy a gun online were prohibited after a background check.
Former State Senator Justin Jones supports the expanded background check in Nevada.
Jones says that private sales will still be easy, but instead of meeting at a bar or coffee shop or parking lot, sellers and buyers can just meet at a gun shop, where the owner can do a five-minute background check to allow the sale to go through.
“It is a reasonable restriction on the right to keep and bear arms,” Jones said.
For its part, the National Rifle Association told KNPR's State of Nevada it opposes the expanded background check because it says it would criminalize everyday behavior of law-abiding Nevada gun owners like loaning a gun to a buddy.
Ted Alcorn, Director of Research for Everytown for Gun Safety; Justin Jones, former State Senator and board member of Battle Born Progress
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