Policy Position Paper

Closing the Gun Show Loophole



The ELCA supports federal law requiring background checks on all gun sales at gun shows.

Reasons for Position:

• Current law requires federal firearms dealers (Federal Firearms Licensees or FFL's) to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System to ensure that the purchaser is not a felon or otherwise prohibited from purchasing a firearm.

• However, non-licensees, who make up one-quarter or more of the sellers at gun shows, have no such requirement.  Therefore, convicted felons and other prohibited persons who want to avoid a background check can purchase firearms at gun shows. 

• A review of criminal investigations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) revealed a wide variety of violations occurring at gun shows and substantial numbers of firearms associated with gun shows being used in drug crimes and crimes of violence, as well as being passed illegally to juveniles.

• Requiring background checks on all guns sold at gun shows would limit the ability of criminals to acquire firearms. 

ELCA Policy Base:

(All policy positions taken by the ELCA are based on the Social Statements previously passed by the voting members of the Churchwide Assembly or other governing documents of the ELCA.)

The ELCA message “Community Violence” (adopted by ELCA Church Council on April 18, 1994) states:

• “As we move toward a more comprehensive address of community violence, we join with other religious communities in anti-violence initiatives that…stem the proliferation of guns in our streets, schools, and homes;”

• “The Holy Spirit works among us to wrench us from violence, hate, greed and fear, and transforms us into people who are called to trust God and live in community with one another.”

• “As citizens in a democracy, we have the responsibility to join with others to hold government accountable for protecting society and ensuring justice for all, and to seek changes in policies and practices toward these ends.”

The “For Peace in God’s World” social statement (adopted by more than two-thirds majority vote—803-30 in 1995) states:

• “Our everyday communities form the arena where faith acts in love for peace.  God calls us to be peacemakers in and through the many overlapping circles of communities through which God gives us life: our homes and friendships, neighborhoods and work places, congregations and volunteer associations, towns and cities, nations and international communities.”

The 1993 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, in Assembly Action CA93.6.10, “Community Violence—Gun Control,” acted:

• “To call upon all of our congregations, synods, and appropriate agencies to work for the passage and strict enforcement of local, state, and national legislation as appropriate, that rigidly controls the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, purchase, transfer, receipt, possession or transportation of handguns, assault weapons, and assault-like weapons and their parts, excluding rifles and shotguns used for hunting and sporting purposes, for use other than law enforcement and military purposes;”

For further information, contact Kay Bengston  (kay_bengston@elca.org), or call (202) 783-7507.

 The following websites also have information on the gun show loophole:



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