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2020 Presidential Election

2020 Gun Reform: Background Checks


  • When purchasing a firearm or gun, licensed dealers are required by federal law to run a background check. [U.S. Department of Justice]

  • Loophole: Private sellers are often unlicensed and are not required by law to run a background check. [Vox]

  • An estimated 1 in 5 guns is sold without a background check.

  • A universal background check would require all dealers to run a background check on potential buyers. [The Washington Post]

2019 Pew Research Center survey found a majority of Americans, both Democrats (93%) and Republicans (82%), support universal background checks.


President Trump is unclear on background checks.


Why unclear

While in office, President Trump has made remarks that support and actions that oppose universal background checks.

  • In 2018, President Trump called for expanded background checks for guns purchased private shows and on the internet. [The New York Times]
  • A month later, President Trump met with NRA leader assuring him background checks were "off the table." [The Denver Post]

What he's said

2019: "We're looking at background checks. At the same time, all of us want to protect our great Second Amendment..." [Reuters]



What he's done

While in office, the Trump administration has passed no legislation strengthening background check requirements.

  • 2017: The Trump administration purged all records of "fugitives from justice" from the national background check system. This grants around 500,000 fugitives the ability to purchase a firearm. [The Washington Post]
  • 2019: President Trump said he would veto legislation passed by the House of Representatives containing mandates for universal background checks. [Politico]

Former Vice President Biden supports background checks.


What he's said

"It's within our grasp to end our gun violence epidemic and respect the Second Amendment... As president, Biden will pursue constitutional, common-sense gun safety policies." [Joe Biden Campaign]


Biden promises to:

  • Require background checks for all gun sales, except for gifts between family members,
  • Expand incentives for states to submit prohibited persons in the background check system,
  • Close the "Charleston loophole," 
  • Reinstate fugitive records purged by the Trump administration from the background check system. [Joe Biden Campaign]

What he's done

"I've taken on the NRA and beaten them - twice." [Joe Biden, Twitter]

  • 1993: Senator Biden helped pass the federal background checks law that still stands today. [Vox]
  • 1994: Senator Biden co-wrote a 10-year assault weapons ban. [NPR] NYU School of Medicine found "mass-shooting fatalities were 70% less likely to occur during the federal ban period."

No gun reform legislation was passed during the Obama-Biden administration. [Vox]

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