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Nebraska group predicts support for changes to gun dealer rules, background checks

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Deborah Van Fleet

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(Nebraska News Connection) Well over three-fourths of Americans support universal background checks for gun purchases, but federal law allows unlicensed people to sell guns at gun shows and online without one.

Sixteen states now require background checks for gun sales by licensed and unlicensed sellers but Nebraska is not one of them.

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The Biden administration is taking a step to close the gun show loophole. By mid-May, a broader definition of who is a gun dealer, and thus required to conduct background checks, will go into effect.

Melody Vaccaro, executive director of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, said the broadened definition will not affect true "hobbyists," such as antique gun collectors.

"The main way that it goes between a hobbyist and a gun dealer is if someone is selling guns regularly for money," Vaccaro explained. "If monetization is the driver of the gun sales."

Nearly a dozen different violations make people ineligible to purchase or possess a gun under federal law. And since the federal background check system was initiated in 1998, it has stopped nearly 5 million illegal gun purchases.

Those who oppose expanding background checks believe additional regulations burden law-abiding citizens and do not stop potentially dangerous people from getting firearms.

Vaccaro acknowledged it may be true, but is not a reason to stop trying. She hopes the change will help Nebraskans discover their common ground on this issue.

"Everybody is worried about gun violence. Everybody's worried about mass shootings. Everybody's wondering how we can do better; everybody's wondering that," Vaccaro emphasized. "That's not a political party conversation; that is actually something we all share."

And Vaccaro expects most Nebraskans will welcome an increase in the percentage of gun sales to include a background check.

"It is just so basic; it's so pragmatic," Vaccaro contended. "I really would be surprised if there was authentic pushback from everyday people, who are not lobbyists or directly profiting from the gun industry in some way."

Nebraska law regulates handgun sales by both licensed and unlicensed sellers, but private sellers can sell a long gun without a background check.