Dozens of Americans will be murdered, hundreds of others will be shot, and nearly 1,000 will be robbed or assaulted with a gun — today.
The United States has some of the weakest gun laws in the world. To make us, our families, and our communities safer, we need to beef up a few of those laws — now.
As President Barack Obama has urged, Congress should vote soon on common-sense gun laws that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Sensible steps include requiring a criminal background check for every gun sale, making gun trafficking a federal crime, and banning the military-style assault weapon that killed so many people in Newtown on December 14.
It’s madness to allow guns to be sold to felons with a history of gun violence or to the mentally ill. That’s why current law requires that no gun can be sold by a licensed gun dealer without a criminal background check. But millions of guns are sold by unlicensed sellers at gun shows and through websites with no background checks. We need to strengthen current law to cover all gun sales. The few minutes it takes to complete a computerized check would save lives.
The federal background check law has blocked more than 1.5 million illegal gun sales over the past 14 years. It works. The problem is that the law doesn’t apply to private sales, so the bad guys (and gals) can avoid a background check and get any kind of gun, no questions asked.
Both the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the national Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed mandatory, universal background checks because they know they will save lives. It’s time to close the gun show loophole.
I support the Second Amendment. Even gun owners overwhelmingly favor requiring a criminal background check of anyone purchasing a gun. It will lead to fewer firearm deaths.
Some weapons are too dangerous for civilian use. That’s why the federal government imposed taxes and strict regulations on the manufacturing and distribution of sawed-off shotguns, silencers, very high-caliber firearms, grenades, and bombs nearly 80 years ago. Military-style assault weapons — like the one used to murder defenseless children and educators in Newtown — are versions of military weapons that are designed for rapid fire. They’re weapons of war, and like machine guns, extremely dangerous. We’d be safer without them.
And hunters and sportspeople don’t use these weapons to kill game. Rapid fire is contrary to the whole point of the sport. In the decade that the federal ban on assault weapons was in effect, the percentage of assault weapons traced to crime fell by 66 percent. The ban worked.
Some gun accessories should be outlawed. High-capacity ammunition magazines are designed to shoot a lot of people, quickly. There is no hunting or sporting purpose for these magazines — and that was a major reason for the ban on them between 1994 and 2004. Just like silencers, high-capacity magazines are simply too dangerous for sale to civilians.
The Tucson massacre is a good example. Rep. Gabby Giffords’ shooter had an ammunition magazine with 31 bullets. He was tackled after he shot out his clip and was trying to reload. If the magazine had only 10 rounds, a lot of lives could have been saved.
Let’s work together. Let’s ask our leaders to prevent the next mentally ill person from going to a gun show and buying an automatic weapon with a huge magazine without getting a background check. The police chiefs are asking for this.
What is Washington waiting for?
OtherWords commentaries are free to re-publish in print and online — all it takes is a simple attribution to OtherWords.org. To get a roundup of our work each Wednesday, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.