It seems kind of crazy to me that we can't require background checks on everyone who buys a gun. We can require people to jump through hoops to own, insure and operate a vehicle, but we can't do it with gun owners? That's nuts. Aren't we all tired of seeing people gunned down in the streets by someone who shouldn't have had a gun in the first place?
Jared Lee Loughner, the Tucson shooter, and Virginia Tech shooter Seung Hui-Cho both passed gun background checks because their records were not in the system -- even though Loughner had been rejected by the Army for drug use and Cho had been judged mentally ill through the courts.
Millions of records of criminals, drug abusers, mentally ill, and domestic violence offenders are missing from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. In fact, 28 states have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records to NICS.
About 40% of all gun sales are private. How convenient, since private, unlicensed sellers, who often sell at gun shows, aren't required to do background checks. That's how the Columbine High shooters got around the system: They bought guns at a gun show from an unlicensed seller: no paperwork, no questions asked.
The tide of public opinion, especially since the Tucson massacre, is turning in the direction of restrictions on gun sales. According to a bi-partisan poll conducted in January 2011 and just released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group with more than 550 members:
- 90 percent of Americans and 90 percent of gun owners support fixing gaps in the government databases that are meant to prevent the mentally ill, drug abuser and others from buying guns.
- 86 percent of Americans and 81 percent of gun owners support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter who they buy it from.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has introduced the “Fix Gun Background Checks Act”, which would help fix a lot of the problems. It gets the names of prohibited gun buyers into the system by toughening the financial penalties for states that don't provide the data on felons, drug abusers, the mentally ill and other high-risk categories to NICS. It also clarifies the definitions of “mentally ill” and “drug abuse.”
One much-needed feature is that it establish mental health plans for colleges and universities: Federally funded colleges and universities will be required to report to a state mental health agency when a student is expelled or suspended due to mental health concerns. The state agency will then determine whether the person needs to be reported to NICS.
The bill allows some transfers of guns without background checks, including gifts of guns from one family member to another, loans of guns among people at a hunting or shooting range, and inheritance of guns.
These are all eminently sane and reasonable restrictions. Maybe it's just time. Call your senator and ask him/her to support the bill.