Background Checks for Guns

I have never found a need to own or use a high powered automatic weapon, but I’ve never been a hunter confronting herds of aggressive deer in armored vehicles.  The debate over the need for these weapons is ongoing and although this battle seems to have no short-term resolution, I really think there is a consensus supporting background checks to prevent dangerous people from owning guns. Cartoon of turkey being shot with automatic weapon

There are existing gun laws that require background checks, which if were a little stronger, could prevent the bad guys from purchasing weapons.  I’ve always been for background checks but I, like most of you, am an uninformed advocate who really doesn’t know WTF our gun laws say about background checks, so I did a little research and finally am a kind-of informed citizen (dangerous).

The 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is our governments attempt to address the issue of starting to control the wild west method of gun ownership by creating a database and mandating background checks to help deny criminals and unstable people from owning or possessing guns.  The impetus for this law was the attempted assassination of President Reagan and the wounding of White House Press Secretary Jim Brady by a mentally unstable shooter.

From Wikipedia:

The Brady Bill requires that background checks be conducted on individuals, by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) maintained by the FBI, before a firearm may be purchased from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer.  Section 922(g) of the Brady Bill prohibits certain persons from shipping or transporting any firearm in interstate or foreign commerce, or receiving any firearm which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, or possessing any firearm in or affecting commerce.

These prohibitions apply to any person who:

  1. Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Is a fugitive from justice;
  3. Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  4. Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  5. Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  6. Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  7. Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  8. Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
  9. Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

The Brady Act was a great start at trying to control irresponsible gun ownership but was/is opposed by many gun rights groups and failed to address key issues that weakened the law like: the exclusion of private and collector gun sales and the failure to set up a reliable data base to track the bad guys.  The data base housed at the FBI relies on agencies and states to supply info on the those who shouldn’t possess guns but with no consequences for not reporting or updating the data base, a lot of guns are in the hands of some really sketchy people.

After several recent tragic shootings by people who should have been added to the FBI bad guy or irresponsible list, the Senate has rightfully reacted with proposed legislation that would financially reward states who help to keep the data base updated, and penalize federal agencies that fail to report to the system.  I’m sure we could do more, but anything is a positive.  Hopefully, this will keep a few more guns out of the hands of killers and let responsible people keep their second amendment rights.

Like any other complex issue zealots on both sides of the gun control debate have kind of hijacked the conversation which tends to lessen the chance for compromise.  I just hope that despite big money lobbyists, pro and anti-gun, that our lawmakers realize that we have a problem and need to start using the “grandparent” standard for legislation, which is to ignore special interests and look into their grand-kid’s eyes and think about the laws needed to keep them safe.