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A new state law that expanded criminal background checks — all voluntary — for the private sale of firearms at Virginia gun shows may not be yielding the results that supporters had envisioned when it was crafted last year as part of a bipartisan gun safety deal.
During the first full year of the measure ending June 30, only 54 voluntary background checks were requested by private sellers of firearms or their customers at 77 gun shows across the state. And of those, only one prospective gun buyer was denied the purchase of a gun, and he was never charged with an offense.
By comparison, 39,738 mandatory criminal background checks were performed by federally licensed firearms dealers on their customers at gun shows between July 1, 2016, and June 30, resulting in 325 denials, according to newly released data from the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, which is operated by the Virginia State Police.
The numbers appear to show that private sellers are not requesting the voluntary checks in a majority of their sales, or that the number of private sellers is far fewer than many have claimed.
Police keep no record of the number of firearms sold at gun shows by private, unlicensed sellers. But a Virginia Firearms Transaction Center supervisor has estimated that an average of 15 to 20 private sales occur during a typical weekend gun show.
When those figures are multiplied by the 77 shows that took place during the first year of the law, an estimated 1,155 to 1,540 firearms were sold privately at gun shows during the period. That would suggest that a voluntary background check was requested in only 1 out of every 21.4 to 28.5 private sales.
A new state law that expanded criminal background checks — all voluntary — for the private sale of firearms at Virginia gun shows may not be yielding the results that