Note to Oak Park voters regarding the GRA [Gun Responsibility Advocates] and their November referendum on universal background checks: The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is alive and well and isn’t in need of duplication. 

If you feel strongly about the Second Amendment and/or gun violence, vote your conviction. If you don’t know, just pass on the referendum. I will be voting “No” for the following reasons: 

Here is the text of the non-binding referendum: Shall the Federal Government enact legislation requiring universal background checks of criminal and mental health history record information for all transfers of ownership or possession of firearms, including transfers which occur at gun shows, over the Internet and privately, as a step toward preventing the ownership or possession of firearms by criminals and those with serious mental illnesses, and as a step toward preventing illegal gun trafficking altogether. 

No one has tried to define exactly what “universal background check” means and how it would differ from the existing NICS program. NICS, run by the FBI, is used by Federal Firearms Licensed Dealers in all 50 states and is mandated in 30 states, Illinois being one of them. NICS has run 100 million background checks in the last 10 years, resulting in 700,000 purchase refusals ( 7/10 of 1%) of which very few have been tried and convicted. 

Real progress would be achieved if a greater number of those attempting illegal purchases were sent to jail. This is the law that the regulators group is asking for. It already exists and is only marginally effective in the area of gang violence and street crime. 

Here is the NICS information ( “The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is all about saving lives and protecting people from harm by not letting guns and explosives fall into the wrong hands. It also ensures the timely transfer of firearms to eligible gun buyers.” 

As I read the NICS information it seems that every legal aspect of the GRA group’s referendum is more than adequately covered by this existing program. Gun buyers and sellers have used this government program for years. 

The legal issue is when you insert “and privately transferred” to the definition. How can this be accomplished without the settled illegality of a federal firearms registry? How do you enforce the background check for guns sold, illegally, out of a car trunk behind the liquor store? Both parties are already breaking the law! 

HIPPA laws governing mental health records is a roadblock to identifying dangerously mentally ill people whose privacy rights are protected. These individuals have been the core group from which most mass murderers have emerged. 

If you are convinced that the referendum breaks new ground and will make a difference in the war on gun violence, then support and vote for the referendum. I will be voting against the referendum because it just duplicates an existing, in place, federal program and in many ways with less authority. 

If you do not have a strong opinion or fail to see the value of the referendum and fail to see how it would be executed, then just take a pass and don’t comment one way or the other by not voting on the referendum. 

If the GRA were interested in actually making a difference they would direct their effort toward making realistic suggestions to the FBI and amending the NICS program. If, on the other hand, the objective is a feel-good effort with no real hope for a positive outcome, you have wasted this community’s time and your effort. 

Ray Simpson has been an Oak Park resident since 1967.

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