Gun Show Background Checks State Laws

Known as the "gun show loophole," most states do not require background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows from private individuals -- federal law only requires licensed dealers to conduct checks.

Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, federal law clearly defined private sellers as anyone who sold no more than four firearms per year. But the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act lifted that restriction and loosely defined private sellers as people who do not rely on gun sales as the principal way of obtaining their livelihood. 

Some states have opted to go further than federal law by requiring background checks at gun shows for any gun transaction, federal license or not. Five states, most recently Colorado and Connecticut, mandate universal background checks, an even more stringent standard that imposes background checks on almost all gun purchases, including over the Internet.

Even in states that do not require background checks of private vendors, the venue hosting the event may require it as a matter of policy. In other cases, private vendors may opt to have a third-party licensed dealer run a background check even though it may not be required by law.

Last Updated: August 2015

Gun Show Background Check Laws

Not required
Required for handgun sales
Required for all purchases

NOTE: The following states regulate purchases by prohibiting private dealers from selling to individuals who do not have licenses/permits that they obtain after background checks are conducted: Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina.
SOURCE: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

View a separate interactive chart showing firearm background check data by state

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