New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



Current federal law defies logic in requiring that only purchasers who buy from federally licensed sellers be subject to background checking. Thus, universal background checking is frequently proposed as the best and most important form of “sensible gun control”. Upon closer inspection, however, universal background checking would be harder to implement and enforce than proponents recognize. Moreover, the likely payoff in reduction of gun homicides, crimes and suicides would be less than what is often assumed. This Article closely examines universal background checking in theory and practice, including the Manchin-Toomey Amendment which Congress rejected in 2013 but which continues to be reintroduced.

Date of Authorship for this Version

Spring 4-28-2017