Why we need universal background checks

Opinion: Columns

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By John Barrett

We need "universal" background checks (emphasis on "universal") because there is a very large loophole in the existing federal law that allows dangerous people to obtain possession of a gun too easily. 

When the Supreme Court ruled that the possession of a gun for personal protection was a constitutional right under the Second Amendment, they also ruled that several classes of people could be denied this right. Among the prohibited classes of people are felons and the seriously mentally ill. Almost everyone agrees that these are limited and reasonable restrictions on the right to own a gun.

In order to ensure that these prohibited people cannot obtain a gun as easily as they do now, the FBI maintains the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) where the names of these individuals are stored. Before selling a gun, a Federally Licensed Firearm Dealer is required to check with the NICS to make sure that the buyer is not on the prohibited list. Filling out the paperwork and checking with the NICS takes only a few minutes and 90% of the inquiries are resolved while the gun dealer is still on the phone.

This system is quick and efficient and, since its creation in 1998, it has prevented the sale of guns to over two million criminals and other prohibited persons. 

The problem is that there is a large loophole in the system: It applies only to licensed dealers.

Under federal law, private sales or transfers of guns between individuals who are not licensed dealers are not covered. Sales at gun shows, between individuals or via the Internet can result in the gun being sold to a prohibited individual because no background check is required. This is a huge loophole in the federal law and it needs to be fixed.

The fix is simple. All gun sales should be subject to a background check. The rule that applies to licensed dealers should apply to all gun sales. This is what is we mean by "universal" background checks. 

The reason we are calling on the federal government is that Illinois state laws, although strict, are not sufficient by themselves. In a recent report released by the Chicago Police Department, it was pointed out that 60 percent of guns recovered from crime scenes in Chicago were first sold in other states. The report states, "The largest out-of-state sources of Chicago's illegal guns were Indiana, Mississippi, and Wisconsin, which supplied 19 percent, 6.7 percent and 3.6 percent of these crime guns respectively. None of these states have laws that require checks for purchasers who buy firearms at gun shows or on the Internet."

With rights come responsibilities. Although the primary owner of a gun undergoes a background check when the gun is initially purchased from a licensed dealer, the secondary buyer of that gun may not. Just as we are at risk from second-hand smoke from cigarettes, we are also at risk of being shot by a "second-hand gun." 

 Universal background checks are supported by 85 percent of voters and 60 percent of NRA members. It is a reasonable and simple request. That is why I support the referendum on universal background checks that has been placed on the November ballot in Oak Park. 

Because, unfortunately, what happens in Indiana does not stay in Indiana.

John Barrett is an Oak Park resident and a member of the Gun Responsibility Advocates.

Reader Comments

23 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Tom from Berwyn  

Posted: October 21st, 2014 6:02 PM

Regulation is not the problem - enforcement and efficient prosecution is. If criminals have no problem with violent crime. Simple possession issue is not the place to focus.

Bill Doogan  

Posted: July 27th, 2014 9:07 PM

Transplant- Rep. Brandon Phelps HB183 concealed carry bill REQUIRES applicants to give access to their health records, "a waiver of the applicant's privacy and confidentiality rights and privileges under ALL federal and state laws..." NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde gave this language to Phelps. Universal background checks, provided by the rat who sold out Otis McDonald. Chris Cox & Chuck Cunningham actually pay money to this traitor. The NRA hicks in Mayberry think Vandermyde is their friend.

Bill Kopper from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 5th, 2014 11:02 AM

@Violet. To be fair the current administration hasn't lifted any of the restrictive Homeland Security policies.

Violet Aura from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: July 4th, 2014 10:30 AM

@Chris: And the Republicans use "terrorist threats/attacks" to attack our liberties, as well. Get out of the Matrix, my friend. Eff both parties.

Chris from Louisville  

Posted: July 4th, 2014 10:17 AM

Democrat = Gun Control = Universal Background Check= Registry = Confiscation. Very simple indeed.

Violet Aura from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: July 4th, 2014 10:10 AM

Silly on steroids. As if thugs on the street care about anything. The only ones jumping through hoops are the people who actually use firearms responsibly (by and large). It does NOTHING to address the major sources of gun violence in Crook Couty. Typical. But I see a far more sinister plot beyond simply creating yet another useless law: the disarming of law-abiding citizens.

Robert Naess from Cavendish  

Posted: July 3rd, 2014 10:57 PM

Major error in this screed: author claims that lists of citizens names are on file with NICS. Wrong. FFL gives ID info of buyer to NICS which is screened for any disqualifying history. If there is none, transaction is completed. NICS info, by law, cannot be kept for more than 24 hours, but, guess what? Some states keep it anyway to creat a registry of owners. The willingness of states and the Feds to not comply with many laws is a major reason to prevent universal background checks.


Posted: July 3rd, 2014 10:03 PM

1. Not everyone supports felons and mentally ill being denied their constitutional rights. 2. You cannot buy a gun on the internet without a background check. The closest way to do that would be to use the internet to set up a face-to-face private sale. 3. There is no loophole. The Brady Bill never intended to restrict private sales. 4. It is true that it is easier in areas surrounding Chicago to get guns. So my question is why don't these places have insane levels of violence like Chicago?


Posted: July 3rd, 2014 8:41 PM

Recently I order the pistol through a website and pay for it. The pistol is then shipped to an FFL Dealer near me. At the FFL Dealer I had to turn over my driver's license, my Concealed Carry Permit (this takes the place of the Pistol Permit that my state requires for handgun purchases), fill out Form 4473 which if filled out incorrectly could land me a felony, pay the transfer fee, and then the firearm is mine to take home.

Parnell from Ocean Grove  

Posted: July 3rd, 2014 7:45 PM

In NJ, all sales of handguns, commercial or private must have a Pistol Purchase Permit and Firearms ID Card. To obtain those one undergoes two background checks. Therefore, the state feels that a further one is unnecessary in a private sale.

Rich from Reading  

Posted: July 3rd, 2014 7:31 PM

The percentages of people who support UNDEFINED background checks are fraudulent.. please define for the board the people you would consider dangerously mentally ill.. 300,000,000 prscriptions for psychiatric drugs were written in 2009 alone..

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 3rd, 2014 4:45 PM

I'm no big fan of private gun ownership (or well-regulated militias, for that matter), but the language of the 2nd Amendment is plain. We have the right to both keep and bear arms. That right can't be infringed. All efforts to control private ownership of firearms are efforts to infringe upon this right. It's anachronistic and socially self destructive, but that's what it says.

BHirsh from Miami  

Posted: July 3rd, 2014 4:14 PM

"Universal Background Checks" is code for checking backgrounds on private sales. The Commerce Clause delegates the power to mandate checks on retail sales, and wholesale transactions are licensed under the same powers. There is no constitutional authority delegated to interfere with private sales. But stepping around constitutional constraints has never been an issue with progressives. Unfortunately for them, they don't have that option.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 3rd, 2014 10:01 AM

How does adding "Universal" to the title of some undefined law strike fear into the hearts of the "dangerous people" we all agree are the problem? They thumb their noses at the 2200 existing laws, regulations and ordinances that are on the books today and are generally ignored by our court system. The implication that legitimate gun owners are not regulated is just ignorance of the real world. Point of order Dr Barrett - how were you able to respond to my letter before it was published? The gun rights side never got the advantage of a "heads up" pre publication copy of your letters. Play fair or don't play at all!

Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 3:48 PM

The GRA side is void of any mechanical or hands on knowledge of firearms. They want a 10 round magazine limitation. Two revolvers carry 12 rounds. They don't name a Federal agency who wants to undertake this task. What data base will the Federal agency use that the State of Iliinois does not use. All agencies use either NCIC or LEADS.

Raconteur Duck from Atlantis  

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 3:37 PM

"This system is quick and efficient and, since its creation in 1998, it has prevented the sale of guns to over two million criminals and other prohibited persons. " So that's why the prisons are over crowded! They put over a million felons that tried to by guns, in jail! Well, not really. maybe thousands? No? maybe hundreds? No? With over a 98% false positive rate, the 2 million number is bogus. Not even 100 felons have been convicted and done jail time for violating the Brady Act. Efficient?

Jack Burton from crown point  

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 2:14 PM

I can just see two thugs behind a pool hall deciding not to sell and buy a stolen gun because they have not gone through the universal background check.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 1:43 PM

"Among the prohibited classes of people are felons and the seriously mentally ill." Anyone have a problem with the mentally ill being classified with felons, even if they have no criminal history? Everyone's cool with with the necessary HIPAA violations? And if the right to own a firearm is guaranteed by the Constitution, nobody sees a problem with denying that right to innocent citizens because of their health history? This community used to be pretty progressive.

Dan in Oak Park  

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 1:31 PM

I did a quick Google search and apparently the writer is not aware of The Gun Safety and Responsibility Act, which requires that all private firearm transactions in Illinois must be approved by the State Police. True, this is not a Federal law, but seems to cover the local issue. Ignore this law and the seller can be liable for acts committed by the new owner. Seems like a strong incentive to follow the law and report a private sale. What more can be done locally?

Sam Adams from Orlando  

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 1:13 PM

It is already a violation of law to knowingly and willingly see to a prohibited person; why does the government need to know who is armed---unless to stop armed revolution--kind of defeats the founders' purpose; In spite of SCOTUS, the BOR FORBIDS infringing on the right (the purpose of the BOR is actually to limit government); If you want to keep felons (presumably the violent ones) EXECUTE them or lock them up for life (I prefer the former) The 2A is to prevent tyranny with an armed populace!

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 10:52 AM

@Kevin - you are talking about legitimate gun purchases. The fallacy in this "universal background check" idea is that there is absolutely no way to force law breakers to honor a law they probably cannot read much less understand.

Kevin from South Holland  

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 10:29 AM

Additionally, an IL resident already cannot buy a gun in Indiana, Wisconsin, or Mississippi (or any other state) without a background check

Kevin from South Holland  

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 10:25 AM

Internet sales do require a background check because the seller can only ship the gun to a licensed dealer, who is required to run a background check before transferring the gun to the buyer

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2017

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad