THE PRIZE in the current gun safety and control debate has always been universal background checks. It is the mother of all wins that nothing else matches, because absolutely nothing hits the target of gun violence more directly.
Senator Dick Durbin took it to the N.R.A.’s LaPierre, who couldn’t figure out how to regroup.
Mark Kelly’s response to Wayne LaPierre was a thing of beauty. From Greg Sargent, here’s Kelly’s answer to LaPierre’s contention that background checks wouldn’t stop the massacres:
The Tuscon shooter was an admitted drug user. He was rejected from the U.S. Army because of his drug use. He was clearly mentally ill. And when he purchased that gun in November, his plan was to assassinate my wife and commit mass murder at that Safeway in Tucson. He was a criminal. Because of his drug use, and because of what he was planning on doing. But because of these gaps in the mental health system, in this case, those 121,000 records, I admit did not include a record on him. But it could have.
And if it did, he would have failed that background check. He would have likely gone to a gun show, or a private seller, and avoided that background check. But if we close that gun show loophole, if we require private sellers to complete a background check, and we get those 121,000 records and others into the systems, we will prevent gun crime. That is an absolute truth. It would have happened in Tucson. My wife would not have been sitting here today if we had stronger background checks.
President Obama’s new ideas for policy would close private sale and gun show loopholes that allow buyers to skirt background checks. But fixing the gap in databases that begin at the federal level and call for continuity and sharing at state level is another priority of what’s being suggested. If these elements could be fixed it would be a monumental shift in gun safety in this country.
Universal background checks would also change the gun culture in this country, because the conversation would change from one that contends there are people in modern American society who can have guns that law enforcement don’t know about.
It was why it was such a critical moment to see the N.R.A.’s Wayne LaPierre completely disarmed and disoriented during the Senate hearings on gun violence on Wednesday.
There is no evidence for LaPierre’s suggestion that background checks don’t work. Indeed, as my Post colleague Glenn Kessler has shown, in 2010 alone tens of thousands of people with felony and criminal backgrounds were denied guns by checks. More broadly, over 1.5 million gun sales to people who are prohibited from having guns have been blocked by background checks. There is no way to know what would have been done with those guns had those sales gone through, since that is a counter-factual. But the question for those who oppose background checks remains a simple one: Do you think we would be better off if those sales had gone through, or is it a good thing that those sales were blocked? [Greg Sargent, Washington Post]
We are a gun owning family and we support universal background checks, as well as fixing the gap in databases across our state and federal governments, which should also include mental health records for those individuals who should never legally own a firearm.
As for Gayle Trotter, the woman who caused such a stir by advocating assault weapons for mothers with children, citing the weapons look as a primary plus. Ms. Trotter is one of the conservative women who was against the Violence Against Women Act, because it’s unfair to innocent men who get accused of spousal abuse. There’s nothing left to say.