HeadlinesUS & World

Letter: Citizens Selling Firearms Should Be Empowered To Conduct Background Checks

Allow private vendors access to NICS database …

Dear Editor,

Let’s pretend I’m Joe Average citizen. I have a gun I want to sell. The only law concerning me selling my gun is a federal law that says if I know, or have reason to suspect the person buying a gun from me is denied the right to own a gun (i.e. a felon, etc.), I cannot lawfully sell him the gun.

Me: “Are you legally denied the right to own a gun?”

Him: “No.”

Me: “Okay.”

That’s as far as I can take it. I do not have the right to conduct a background check through NICS (National Instant Criminal background System), which is used by Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders – i.e. businesses or individuals who sell guns for a living – to do background checks.

The checks are free to FFL holders but not available to individuals.

Now, enter the politicians: Let’s make universal background checks mandatory. Hmmmm. Not a bad idea, but the independent in me screams WAIT, why make another law? Go from ” you can’t do it” to ” you have to do it BY LAW.” How about, “We will make it available, so you can use it if you want to be a responsible citizen?”

After all, if I have a gun, and the guy I’m talking to wants to buy it, and the law says I have to do a background check, and there are no people around (and no cameras of course), and I don’t want to do a background check … it is a law with little meaning or enforcement capability.

It’s illegal to sell drugs – but there are a bunch of drugs sold everyday.

Suppose that I AM a responsible Citizen, and I want to do a background check on the individual to whom I’m about to sell a gun. As of September 16th 2015, the FBI allows (even encourages) FFL dealers to facilitate transfers between private parties. GREAT! But. The FFL dealer is able to charge a fee for his service. (BTW there is no charge to a FFL dealer for conducting a background check) said fee to be established at whatever the FFL deems fair and reasonable.

So, now the $100 shotgun I’m trying to sell may cost me another $50 to transfer – and the buyer $50 to transfer to himself, so now the $100 gun becomes a $200 gun.

Why not make NICS available to any responsible citizen, even if there is a reasonable administrative fee attached (perhaps $10 administered via an online credit card)?

You are never going to stop the sale of guns from one individual to another without a background check any more than you are going to stop the sale of illegal drugs. But, at least make it possible (and financially feasible) for responsible citizens to do their part in stopping sale of guns to those who, by law, cannot purchase them. I don’t think anybody, even the evil NRA, would object to VOLUNTARY universal background checks.

But the government, in all its wisdom, doesn’t trust us, the citizens, to do the right thing without a specific law, to MAKE us do the right thing, even when said law is basically unenforceable.


George Wilkie, Clinton S.C.



Thank you for submitting an intelligent, focused argument on a hugely divisive issue. Our public discourse would be in a lot better shape if people stopped reflexively yelling and started thinking about ideas to solve the problems that plague us as a society.


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1 comment

9mm February 28, 2023 at 3:48 am

Interesting take, even to this day!


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