PORTLAND, Ore. – On Wednesday morning, President Barack Obama asked a team led by Vice President Joe Biden to come up with a concrete plan by January to reduce gun violence in the United States.
Among the president’s goals: close the so-called “gun show loophole” across the country that allows people in some states to buy guns from private dealers without a background check.
That loophole doesn’t exist at gun stores, however, where buyers already must pass a background check. So in Oregon and Washington, what exactly does that background check entail and what cause would the state have to deny someone a weapon? We decided to find out.
First of all, the “gun show loophole” the president mentioned has already been closed in Oregon and Washington. Even patrons of gun shows must submit to a background check to buy a gun.
Other rules for buying a gun vary a bit between Oregon and Washington.
Waiting period on handguns
- In Washington, you must wait five days to get a handgun.
- In Oregon, you can get a pistol on the same day if you pass the background check.
Who runs background checks?
- In Washington, each sheriff’s office uses the FBI’s database to check a gun buyer’s background.
- In Oregon, gun sellers use the FBI database and a state police unit is designated to check backgrounds.
“Very, very few people who come in to purchase a gun get denied,” said Karl Durkheimer, owner of Northwest Armory gun store in Portland.
People are also prohibited from buying a firearm if they have been convicted of a felony or domestic violence.
Being found mentally ill by court order or being found not guilty by reason of insanity also disqualifies you from legally buying a gun at a gun store.
People who are treated privately for mental illness, however, do not end up in the database. A mental health advocate we spoke with on Wednesday said that’s a good thing.
“If you’re going to put people in a database and adjudicate against them because of their illness, people are going to be less likely to seek treatment and counsel, which is what they’re going to need to learn how to control those impulses,” said Jason Renaud with the Mental Health Association of Portland.
There are currently about 20,000 people in Oregon’s firearms database who are prohibited from buying a gun because of a court order saying they’re mentally ill and a danger to society.
In both Washington and Oregon, there’s no background check required if a private seller simply sells a gun to another private citizen. However, many private sellers still do background checks to limit their liability in case the purchaser does something bad with the weapon.
The officials behind Oregon’s “Firearms Instant Check System” for the state police told KATU that this past week they have seen a record number of requests for background checks.