Myth No. 2
Background checks save lives, research shows.

The concept of universal background checks enjoys rare broad support in the debate over gun violence: consistently at or near 90 percent . Large majorities of Republicans and Democrats favor the expansion of background checks to private sales and gun show sales, according to Pew. And there is solid research indicating that laws that keep guns out of the hands of high-risk individuals, such as domestic abusers and people convicted of violent crimes, reduce violence.

But there is no research indicating that background check laws as they currently exist save lives. Studies suggest that the federal Brady Law, which mandates background checks for firearm sales but exempts sales by private parties, has not been strong enough to reduce homicide rates. There is no compelling, peer-reviewed research on the effectiveness of extending background check requirements to private sales — unless those requirements are paired with a permitting or licensing system for purchasers.

Still, state laws requiring checks via a permitting system do reduce the diversion of guns for criminal use, homicides and suicides, and they may lower the risk of police officers being shot in the line of duty. Only 10 states and the District of Columbia require permits for handgun purchasers; eight states require background checks for private sales but do not require permits.

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