Background Checks

Read our report on how background checks work in Texas

Texas Gun Sense believes that understanding background checks is essential to any discussion about gun violence. Three-fourths of Texans support requiring background checks on all gun purchases, including at gun shows and for other private sales.

  • A great majority of Texans – 85 percent – support requiring background checks on all gun sales. Texas Republicans favored the checks by 79 percent and NRA members by 65 percent in a poll conducted in April 2014.
  • The commissioners court in Travis County, TX. voted in February, 2014 to require that background checks be conducted on all gun sales in shows in its county facility.  The gun show operator did not accept the condition and no longer has shows in the county exposition center, located in Austin.

How Background Checks Work

When a gun is purchased through a licensed firearms dealer (Federal Firearms License holder, or FFL), a background check is required. It is destroyed by the FBI within 24 hours. But only 60% of gun sales, it is estimated, are made through an FFL.

In Texas, law-abiding citizens but also criminals, the mentally ill, and domestic abusers can buy guns from private sellers through gun shows or online. This is called the private sale or gun show loophole.

The only record of a gun sale is a sales receipt (sometimes called a Form 4473) and it stays with the seller, who destroys it after ten years. Gun dealers have been keeping such receipts for 40 years. The sale records only go to the government in the event that an FFL goes out of business, and the government is required to destroy such records after ten years.

Law enforcement officials can access the record of a gun sale only in limited situations, such as for criminal investigations.

Federal law prohibits the creation of a national gun registry in three separate places (with an exception for fully automatic weapons). The proposed legislation before Congress today increases the penalties for federal employees or contractors who disobey the prohibition on a firearms registry.