FRIDAY, Jan. 13, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- About one in five people in the United States who bought a gun in any setting in the past two years did so without a background check, new research finds.
The survey of more than 1,600 gun owners nationwide also found that half of guns bought privately in the past two years were obtained without a background check. The rate was higher in states without laws governing such purchases -- 57 percent vs. 26 percent in states with laws in place.
The researchers found that 77 percent of gun owners who bought their most recent gun from a friend or acquaintance did so without a background check, and that 45 percent of gun owners who bought their most recent gun online did so without a background check.
"Our research makes the case for the adoption of laws in states that do not currently regulate private firearm transfers, and it underscores the fact that we're talking about millions of gun transfers annually that pass from one private owner to another without a formal vetting process," said study author Matthew Miller. He's a professor of health sciences and epidemiology at Northeastern University in Boston.
He noted that while most Americans favor universal background checks, more than 30 states don't require background checks on private firearm sales.
A study released last year by Miller and his colleagues said the number of privately owned guns in the United States increased by more than 70 million -- to approximately 265 million -- between 1994 and 2015. Half of those guns are owned by 3 percent of the population.
The study was published recently in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence explains the risks of having guns in the home.