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Firearm Purchaser Licensing

Firearm purchaser licensing is an effective policy to reduce many forms of gun violence and has broad public support. 

Permit-to-Purchase laws (PTP), or firearm purchaser licensing, require an individual to apply for and obtain a license before purchasing a firearm. In most states with this policy, the process includes submitting an application to state or local police, getting fingerprinted, undergoing a comprehensive background check, and often involves safety training requirements.

Thematic illustration of a fingerprint.

Firearm licensing laws enhance universal background checks by establishing a licensing application process. The additional components required with firearm purchaser licensing laws – fingerprinting, a more thorough, and a built-in waiting period--all play a vital role in preventing people with a history of violence, those at risk for future interpersonal violence or suicide, and gun traffickers from obtaining firearms. Research shows that Permit-to-Purchase laws are one of the most effective ways to reduce many forms of gun violence including gun homicides and suicides.

  • Studies show that Connecticut’s purchaser licensing law was associated with significant reductions in rates of firearm homicide and firearm suicide and the repeal of Missouri’s purchaser licensing law was associated with significant increases in these outcome. 1,2  The most recent study estimates Connecticut’s law reduced firearm homicide rates by 28 percent and firearm suicide rates by 33 percent over a 22-year period; the repeal of Missouri’s law increased firearm homicides by 47 percent and firearm suicide rates by 23 percent.3
  • Another study found evidence that these changes in handgun purchaser licensing laws were linked to decreases in fatal shootings of police officers in Connecticut and increases in shootings of police in Missouri.
  • States with strong handgun purchaser licensing laws were associated with 56 percent lower rates of fatal mass shooting incidents, and 67 percent fewer mass shooting victims.4
  • Permit-to-purchase laws were associated with 11 percent reduction in firearm homicides in urban counties from 1984-2015.5
  • Permit-to-purchase laws are also associated with significantly lower rates of guns being diverted for criminal use shortly after retail sale.
Infographic listing laws that save lives, including the requirement of: enhanced background checks, application process, fingerprinting, completion of firearms safety course, and waiting period.

To learn more visit the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence’s archived policy library on permit-to-purchase laws.

New Videos

Permit-to-Purchase Laws: A Solution to Strengthening Background Checks

The Center for Gun Violence Solutions launched two new videos on Permit-to-Purchase laws, providing an overview of the policy, addressing common misconceptions, and explaining the impact of these laws in states that have implemented them and the associated reduction in rates of firearm-related crime and violence. Both underscore that PTP laws are not an alternative to comprehensive background check laws, but instead serve as a system to strengthen the quality of background checks and increase accountability. 

Our Work

“Requiring a license or permit to purchase a handgun reduces firearm homicides and suicides, as well as trafficking and shootings of law enforcement officers. It is one of the most effective policies we have to reduce gun violence.”

—Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor, Center Deputy Director of Research

The Center  plays a pivotal role in evaluating the impacts of firearm purchaser licensing laws. We have published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles finding that firearm purchaser licensing laws are consistently an effective solution to reducing homicide, suicide, shootings of law enforcement officers, and intimate partner homicide.

Our advocacy team has been instrumental in passing and protecting purchaser licensing laws and continues to push for this evidence-based policy in states across the country.

Center Reports

Podcasts and Other Resources

Select Journal Articles

  1. Webster D, Crifasi CK, & Vernick JS. (2014). Effects of the repeal of Missouri's handgun purchaser licensing law on homicides. Journal of Urban Health
  2. Crifasi CK, Meyers JS, Vernick JS, & Webster DW. (2015). Effects of changes in permit-to-purchase handgun laws in Connecticut and Missouri on suicide rates. Preventive Medicine.
  3. McCourt A, Crifasi C, Vernick J, Kagawa R, Wintemute G & Webster D. (2020). Purchaser licensing, point-of-sale background check laws, and firearm homicide and suicide in 4 US states, 1985–2017. American Journal of Public Health. 
  4. Webster DW, McCourt AD, Crifasi CK, Booty MD, & Stuart EA. (2020). Evidence concerning the regulation of firearms design, sale, and carrying on fatal mass shootings in the United States. Criminology & Public Policy.
  5. Crifasi CK, Merrill-Francis M, McCourt A, Vernick JS, Wintemute GJ, & Webster DW. (2018). Correction to: Association between firearm laws and homicide in urban counties. Journal of Urban Health.