April 23, 2013 — I know my opinion on this topic will probably stick hard in the craw of many gun owners here in Lassen County, but I don’t care — I’m wading out into these swirling, controversial waters anyway.
Last week, a bill that would have expanded background checks for firearms purchases failed in the U.S. Senate by a 54-46 vote, with supporters falling just six votes short of the required 60-vote threshold. More on that later.
I know it’s hard to talk with National Rifle Association supporters about the topic of gun control. For the most part, I’ve found them hard and fast in their response and their beliefs, and they won’t budge a bit from their constitutional right stance. And, believe it or not, I completely understand the slippery slope basis of many of their arguments.
But when the association calls this failed effort to require background checks on individuals seeking to purchase firearms as “misguided” because, “As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools,” they’ve missed the point completely.
Let’s be real for a minute and toss out the bumper sticker logic of statements such as, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and all the other shallow, banal bromides so frequently bantered about by the talking heads in this debate and focus on the real question this bill seeks to answer — should every person seeking to purchase a deadly weapon face a background check to verify they do not suffer from a mental illness or have a criminal conviction that would prohibit the possession of such a weapon?
It’s really not a very hard question to answer. There’s no constitutional issue because for most of those people gun possession is already prohibited (unless, of course, you want to argue the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment is absolute and not subject to any restriction of any kind).
Honestly, I believe if we focus on the real question behind the legislation nearly all of us would agree the mentally ill and dangerous felons should not be allowed to purchase weapons. That’s a no brainer.
In California (and five other states), background checks at gun shows are mandatory. But according to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence website, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System already has prevented purchases by 1.8 million prohibited individuals. They report something like 60 percent of all gun sales take place at gun shows, and 40 percent of gun sales nationally do not include a background check. Wow.
The association is right in a sense as far as they go — background checks will not stop some demented someone from using a gun when committing a violent crime or a mass shooting at a public place such as a school. A background check won’t stop that, but it would prevent the mentally ill and felons from simply rushing to a gun show and purchasing all the firepower they desire completely beyond the reach of the law as it already exists.
I talked about this with a friend whose opinion I respect, and he disagrees with me. He argues the background check laws in the state of California have not reduced the incidents of gun violence, and he said it’s a fact gun violence in California has increased since background checks were put in place. I haven’t been able to find any clear statistics on that point, but somebody will still have to talk long into the night to convince me there’s something wrong with requiring such background checks.
Back to the vote. Despite the fact a majority of 54 senators voted for the bill, it failed due to the senate’s rule requiring a supermajority to end a filibuster before bringing a filibustered bill to the floor for a simple majority vote. Oh, please. Some real mental giants and nonbelievers in democracy must have burned a lot of midnight oil to come up with that one. It’s just a way to ensure the losers can always win by blocking the will of the majority. Hey, if I were king of the senate that lame rule would be the first one I’d toss.
Working with rules like that it’s no wonder our leaders in Washington can’t get anything done.
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