The picture above is the background check form known as ATF-4473. Every gun transaction that requires a background check (see below) involves using this form that is then used to transmit personal identifiers of the buyer to the FBI, as well as to keep a permanent record of the type of firearm and the buyer's background information in the shop or gun show where the transaction took place.
There are three types of transactions that utilize the 4473 and thus enable the FBI to check the fitness of the customer to own a gun:
1. Every new gun that is sold for the first time.
2. Every used gun that has been sold or traded to a dealer and then gets re-sold to a customer.
3. Every gun that is transferred between two individuals who agree among themselves to have a dealer conduct a background check.
Note the following: Nowhere on the form is the gun in question identified as being either new or used. In addition, the form can cover multiple gun transfers as long as the guns are being received by the same individual. Remember, the NICS is all about identifying people, not guns.
Now let's look at some data. In 2011, according to the ATF, 11.3 million firearms were manufactured or imported into the U.S. The 2012 number isn't yet available. So let's assume there was an uptick in 2012 and round off the number of new guns possibly entering the market to 10 million, assuming that 90% of all the new guns manufactured and imported was sold to a consumer.
Now let's look at some more data. According to the FBI, the NICS call center received 19.5 million calls in 2012. In my shop roughly 10% of all sales involve the transfer of multiple guns, and my shop is pretty typical so the 19.5 million NICS calls in 2012 had to represent at least 21 million guns but I'll round it off to 20 million just to be on the safe side.
Now remember, NICS doesn't distinguish between new and used guns. The ratio of new to used guns in my shop is 6:4, but lately it's been 6:3 since people are afraid they won't be able to keep their guns. So, as Bill Clinton would say, let's do the arithmetic. 20 million calls to NIC minus 10 million new guns and 4 million used guns. Where did the other 6 million NICS calls come from? We have accounted for two of the three types of NICS transactions described above. Which leaves only one other type of transaction: individuals transferring a gun between themselves who decide to do it with a background check.
But I thought that since private sales don't require a NICS check, that nobody does them. I thought the whole point of extending background checks to private sales was to catch all those guns that end up in the wrong hands. Let me break the news to you gently. If I had a nickel for every time I thought about the gun business based on information that couldn't withstand even the most cursory examination of the data, I wouldn't be sitting here hoping that someone walks into my shop to buy a gun.