Nel's New Day

January 26, 2015

Universal Background Checks Necessary for Gun Safety

The local Ceasefire Oregon chapter organized a gun buy-back earlier this month. Despite naysayers from the gun non-legislation people, it was deemed a success with 138 weapons unwanted and possibly dangerous weapons turned into the police chief in my small coastal town. Fox network saw the video about the event and asked to do a story with the focus on people who said that they would gather outside the event and buy guns.

Publicity about the event brought the trollers who objected to background checks for private gun sales. The Central Coast Ceasefire Oregon Steering Committee responded to one of these complaints with stated concerns in italics:

Bob, thank you for your thoughtful response to the NOW BLOG.

Comment 1: How about starting to find common ground by not using insulting terms like “the gun lobby” to describe people who don’t support the agenda of even more restrictive laws? We aren’t a monolithic block, we aren’t a paid group of people, and we aren’t one organized group. Yet gun control advocates continue to paint us all with one wide brush.

Ceasefire Oregon uses the term “gun lobby” when we are addressing the organizations that actually lobby legislators about firearms-related issues. There is indeed a vast, well-financed, well-organized, and focused gun lobby. Nationally, the NRA, the NRA-ILA, and the Gun Owners of America lead it. In Oregon, the best known gun lobby is the Oregon Firearms Federation (OFF).

We try to use the term “gun owners” when referring to those who own firearms or enjoy firearms, but are not lobbyists. We don’t always use the term “gun owners” because we know that the vast majority of gun owners actually agree with the goals of Ceasefire Oregon.

Gun violence prevention advocates, such as the members of Ceasefire Oregon, are not a monolithic block, a paid group of people, or one organized group, either. Our unifying issue is “gun violence prevention” not gun control. We prefer the terms “gun safety” or “gun violence prevention” to describe our work.

Bob, have you an alternative to the name “gun lobby”?

Comment 2: How do you address the fact that most firearms used by criminals already evade existing [background check] laws regarding sales and very little prosecution is taking place regarding those laws? The administration’s own National Institute of Justice reports shows [sic] that most firearms are purchased on the “secondary” market; people eligible for legal purchases are illegally selling firearms to criminals.

Tragically, some gun sellers will sell guns without performing a background check first. Criminals use the private sale loophole to bypass a background check. A background check law will hold a gun seller criminally liable if the seller does not perform a background check and the purchaser was actually prohibited from buying a gun. Few people are willing to put their liberty at risk just to sell a gun to a criminal.

The state of Oregon recognized that prosecutions of those who violate Oregon’s limited background check law were inadequate.

“Effective Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at 8:00am, the Oregon State Police (OSP) will be revising the procedures related to violations of state law involving persons attempting to purchase or transfer a firearm that are denied, due to a state or federal disqualifier. This revision will include enforcement action involving persons attempting an unlawful firearms transfer through a licensed firearm dealer, during a voluntary private party check, or at a gun show.”

In addition, national law enforcement agencies and the families of those lost to gun violence are taking on the “Bad Apple Gun Dealers.” (Ninety percent of crime guns can be traced back to just 5% of gun dealers.) Here is further background information.

Please correct us if we are wrong, but by your “secondary market” reference, are you referring to straw purchases whereby one person buys weapons with the intent to sell the weapons to a prohibited person? If so, straw purchases are already illegal. This information is clearly laid out in ATF Form 4473 that is filled out when selling and purchasing a firearm.

The United States could greatly reduce straw purchases and gun trafficking by limiting gun purchases to one gun per month. California, Maryland, New Jersey and the District of Columbia already limit gun purchases to one gun in a 30-day period.

Of greatest significance to us is the fact that universal backgrounds checks have proven to deter felons, mentally ill, those caught in the passion of anger, and those caught in the despair of suicide.

Comment 3: So how will requiring background checks for “all sales” address [straw purchases]? Do you really expect criminals to stop paying friends and family to buy firearms for them? Why should I and others like me who already own firearms have to go through yet another check? Or why should I have to go through a check when I buy a firearm from someone I know from work or the range?

We have no expectations of criminals. We do, however, think that family and friends will not want to face criminal charges for supplying weapons to criminals. In addition, we think very few family and friends want to arm criminals.

We believe the truth is that criminals buy guns and a responsible gun owner does not want a criminal to have a gun. Performing a background check as a seller also protects the seller from providing a criminal with a gun.

A universal background check is a minor inconvenience of being a good citizen and caring for the overall safety of the country. Requiring only one background check per lifetime (or for a limited period of time) ignores the fact that people change over time. Maybe you did not know that your friend from work or the range was a felon or had been adjudicated mentally ill at the time of sale or vice versa? Having consistent regulations is a safeguard. We all know there some gun owners who should not have possession of guns.

Two million prohibited people have been blocked from purchasing a gun since the Brady Law was enacted in 1993.

Bob, how would you propose to stop prohibited persons from buying guns?

Comment Four: Do you mean safe storage laws like Washington D.C. had? Do you mean if a firearm is stolen, the owner will be penalized and criminalized unless that owner can prove the firearm was stored in an ‘approved’ vault?

We are sure you agree that responsible gun owners have control over their weapons. Weapons should always be stored safely or kept under control on the gun owner’s person.

Smart gun technology can greatly reduce the risk of stolen guns being used in crimes as well as reduce the risk of suicide by gunshot.

With great rights come great responsibilities. If you choose to bring a gun into your home and community, you must be responsible for it.

Comment 5: The area of mental health is an area where we can make great strides, but we should proceed cautiously. So far most of the proposals call for anyone seeking help for just about any condition or situation to loose [sic] their right to keep and bear arms. That is unacceptable and will probably keep people from seeking help.

The United States needs to do a much better job of taking care of our mentally ill citizens and those who seek mental health help. Part of that help is to prevent those who would injure themselves or others from accessing firearms. However, we are unaware of any proposal of the breadth you describe.

Again, how would you propose to stop prohibited persons from buying guns?

A speaker from Ceasefire Oregon at tomorrow night’s local NOW meeting will most likely bring out more trolls, especially after recent articles about proposed state legislation for more complete background checks. Last year, neighboring Washington state became the 17th state to extend background checks past the federal standard for only licensed gun dealers. Oregon now has a chance for the same opportunity after last fall’s election increased the number of Democrats in the state government. Senate Judiciary Chairman Floyd Prozanski plans to introduce a bill that requires background checks for criminal history and mental history before private gun sales. Excluded would be sales among family members, inheritances and antique guns.

Private gun sales accounted for about 40 percent of all purchases 20 years ago; this percentage has probably increased since then because of sales on the Internet. Law enforcement officials have said that a record of ownership for sales would help them solve crimes. States with universal background checks have lower rates of police killed with handguns, fewer women shot by their intimate partners, and lower rates of suicides with firearms.

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