Background Checks 101

Check out this infographic for everything you need to know about how universal background checks can help us prevent gun violence.


by Think Progress


Arkadi Gerney is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Kendall Bills is a Special Assistant for the External Affairs team at the Center.


[1] “PBS NewsHour: Shields and Gerson on Cabinet Noms, Gun Laws, Boehner’s Leadership,” December 21, 2012, available at

[2] Compiled using: 1968–1980 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates from Figure 1, “Observed and predicted firearm- and motor-vehicle—related injury deaths, by year — United States, 1968–2005,” available at (last accessed February 2013); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “WISQARS Injury Mortality Reports, 1981-1998,” available at (last accessed February 2013); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports, National and Regional, 1999 – 2010,” available at (last accessed February 2013); Donna L. Hoyert and Xu Jiaquan, “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2011,” National Vital Statistics Reports 61 (6) (2012): 40–42, available at

[3] Compiled using: Anne Leland and Mari-Jana “M-J” Oboroceanu, “American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics” (Washington: Congressional Research Service, 2010), available at; “iCasualties: Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom Casualties,” available at (last accessed February 2013).

[4] Michael Bowling and others, Background Checks for Firearms Transfers, 2009–Statistical Tables (Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 2010), available at Supplemental data from: Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Operations 2010 (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010), available at; Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Operations 2011 (U.S. Department of Justice, 2011), available at

[5] Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Operations 2011.

[6] “Federal Denials: Reasons Why the NICS Section Denies,” available at

[7] Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, “Guns in America: Results of a Comprehensive National Survey on Firearms Ownership and Use” (Washington: Police Foundation, 1996), available at

[8] Caroline Wolf Harlow, Firearm Use by Offenders (Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 2001), available at

[9] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports, National and Regional, 1999 – 2010,” available at (last accessed February 2013).

[10] Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, “Report of Active Firearms Licenses – License Type by State Statistics,” January 10, 2013, available at

[11] U.S. Postal Service, “Postal Facts 2012” (2012), available at

[12] McDonald’s, “Financial Highlights,” available at (last accessed February 2013).

[13] “Loxcel Starbucks Store Map FAQ,” available at (last accessed February 2013).

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

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Students Speak: The Power of STEM

Earlier this month, President Obama met with 40 of the Nation’s top scientists and engineers—discoverers of new drug candidates to treat common cancers; inventors of tools to help surgeons in the operating room; developers of complex algorithms that can help robots navigate; and more. All of these innovators were finalists in the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search competition, and all of them are in still in high school.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

03/28/2013 07:56 PM EDT
Heartland Gourmet, LLC of Lincoln, NE is voluntarily recalling the following items because they may contain undeclared Milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to Milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.
03/29/2013 12:30 PM EDT
March 26, 2013 – AKELAND, Fla., – Publix Super Markets is issuing a voluntary recall for Publix Deli Tri Fruit and Grain Salad since it may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes. Publix received notification of the potential contamination from their supplier, Allison’s Gourmet Kitchens.

Tell the “Gang of Eight”: Stop the prison-to-​deportatio​n pipeline!

End the criminalization of our communities.boy holding immigrant rights sign

Tell the “Gang Of Eight”: We demand immigration reform that protects the rights of all immigrants.

Add Your Voice


In President Obama’s State of the Union address, he expressed his administration’s intention to make immigration a priority. Last month, a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” rolled out a series of principles to overhaul the immigration system.1 Key among their proposed reforms is a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as well as an increase in border security protocols.2

On April 10, immigrants’ rights groups from across the country will be joining together for a National Day of Action,3 calling on Congress to create immigration policy that recognizes the hardships and contributions of new Americans and aspiring citizens. With over 11 million undocumented immigrants4 in this country waiting for an answer, the “Gang of Eight” has an opportunity to write immigration reform that responds to the needs of everyone.

In anticipation of such a proposal, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has made immigration reform a key focus of this year’s policy agenda.5 The CBC has formed a task force to address what they’re calling the “prison-to-deportation pipeline” and its effects on the Black and brown community.6 They recognize what we already know — we’re stronger together.

Please join us in demanding the “Gang of Eight” write immigration reform that protects the rights of all immigrants. It only takes a moment.

For years, America’s broken immigration system has been focused on detention and deportation largely at the expense of our communities.7,8 While enforcement drives the political conversation around reform, inflammatory rhetoric attempts to pit Black and immigrant communities against each other as if the terms “immigrant” or even “Latino” can never have a Black face. Economic opportunities for Black folks have not grown increasingly scarce because of competition with undocumented immigrants.9 These tired rivalries are played up in divide-and-conquer power politics to distract us from the work of addressing the real causes of skyrocketing Black unemployment, which include a history of being economically exploited, marginalized and discriminated against.10

A focus on border security highlights a fundamental divide in the current immigration conversation. Often absent from immigration reform discussions are the more than three million Black immigrants who comprise nine percent of the U.S. foreign-born population, primarily coming from the Caribbean, North and sub-Saharan Africa.11 For Black immigrants, arrival often looks very different — many come into the country with some form of documentation, typically a visa. If these documents expire, those immigrants remain in the country undetected and without status. Although these crossings are less controversial, they remain fraught. For these immigrants, increased enforcement translates to an increase in racial profiling — a reality that is not lost on the already hyper-criminalized Black community.

Immigration reform that primarily focuses on enforcement through border patrol dragnets and the use of questionable government databases such as “Secure Communities” — a flawed, high-tech way of tracking immigration violators via fingerprint data procured from every interaction a person makes with Homeland Security in their lifetime — violates the basic promises of fairness in our legal system.12,13 Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) has overwhelmingly targeted Black and brown folks through suspect methods that use racial profiling — separating families and continuing a pattern of distrust between our communities and law enforcement.14

Demand the “Gang of Eight” propose immigration legislation that includes a roadmap to citizenship for America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants and seeks to reduce the over-reliance on prisons and detention facilities for enforcement.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 — one of the greatest pieces of civil rights legislation introduced in this country — ushered in sweeping reforms of U.S. immigration policy through the implementation and signing of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965.15 Prior to this, our laws actively favored immigrants from Northern and Central Europe only. The new law shifted the focus to family reunification, while opening the door to millions of new immigrants from around the world by turning away from race-based quotas and including a provision giving preference to professional skills that were in short supply in the United States. At the time, these reforms were monumental. However, due to the racially-punitive nature of previous immigration policy, a focus on family reunification has created a stratified system where immigration quotas from some countries are higher than others, keeping our communities permanently at the “back of the line.”16

Under President Obama’s tenure, we have seen record-breaking detention and deportations of undocumented immigrants and legal residents swept up under unrealistic deportation quotas for minor traffic offenses, misdemeanors and visa violations.17 Although Black immigrants constitute such a small percentage of the U.S. immigrant population, they are always in the top ten of most-deported foreign nationals and have the highest per capita deportation level of any other racial group.18 Truly just immigration reform must address the inefficiencies in the visa system as well as unrealistic quotas introduced in the family reunification sections of the law.19

Demand immigration reform that ends the criminalization of immigrant communities. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same.

Thanks and Peace,

–Rashad, Arisha, Matt, Aimée, William and the rest of the team    March 29th, 2013

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1. “Who Are the Gang Of 8 in Senate Immigration Debate?” ABC News, 01-30-13

2. “Fixing the Immigration System for America’s 21st Century Economy,” The White House, 01-29-13

3. “Wanna Get Involved in the Coming Immigration Reform Fight? Here’s How,” Colorlines, 02-01-13

4. “11 Million Undocumented Immigrants: What’s Behind This Number,” Huffington Post, 02-13-13

5. “113th Congress Outlook: CBC Policy Agenda” (.pdf), Congressional Black Caucus, 02-05-13

6. “Black Lawmakers Demand an End to Prison-to-Deportation Pipeline,” Colorlines, 03-13-13

7. “Documenting the Undocumented,” Slate, 01-13-13

8. “Immigration tactics aimed at boosting deportations,” USA Today, 02-17-13

9. “Blacks and the Immigration Crisis, Pt. 2: ‘Taking All Our Jobs,'” Ebony, 02-25-13

10. “Organize to Improve the Quality of Jobs in the Black Community,” UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education (.pdf), 05-01-04

11. “5 Fast Facts About Black Immigrants in the United States,” Center For American Progress, 12-20-12

12. “Immigration Crackdown Also Snares Americans,” New York Times, 12-13-11

13. “New Secure Communities Study Reveals Troubling Data,” PBS, 10-19-11

14. “Racial Profiling, False Arrests, Deportation — The True Face of Federally Mandated ‘Secure Communities,’” Alternet, 07-24-12

15. “1965 Immigration Law Changed Face of America,” NPR, 05-09-06

16. “Getting in line for immigration,” Twin Cities Daily Planet, 02-21-13

17. “Blacks and the Immigration Crisis, Part 1,” Ebony, 02-13-13

18. See reference 17.

19. “DHS Tells States: We Don’t Need Your Approval for Secure Communities,” Colorlines, 08-09-11