I find that I must take issue with a number of the statements that John Erickson made in his last piece on universal background checks. I think that it is fair to say that very few, if any, of our laws are perfect, even after many revisions. If we refrained from enacting any laws until they are “flaw-free,” we would have anarchy. I also believe that background checks work to decrease gun violence and would be more effective if universal checks were required federally.
Since the Brady Law went into effect in 1994, “background checks have stopped more than 2.1 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers including convicted felons, domestic abusers, fugitives from justice and other dangerous individuals.”(20 Years of Brady Background Checks). Apparently a good number of people who shouldn’t own guns do try to purchase them through a licensed gun dealer. But many convicted felons and others who are prohibited from purchasing guns buy weapons from unlicensed sellers at gun shows and through Internet websites like Armslist.com. The Internet allows gun sales 24/7 with thousands of advertisements at any one time. Forty percent of guns now sold in America are sold without background checks.
Some states have passed laws expanding background checks: California is one of them. It requires background checks for all firearms sales or transfers, including gun shows. Between 1990 and 2009, California reduced its firearm mortality rate by 47.7 percent. (Brady, Dix2012) States that have expanded background check laws to all handgun sales experience fewer violent gun crimes. In those states, 39 percent fewer police officers are killed by handguns (FBI 2013) and 38 percent fewer women are killed by their intimate partners. (FBI 2010). Conversely, when Missouri relaxed background check requirements in 2007, the state’s murder rate increased 16 percent (Webster 2014). Between 55 and 63 additional murders per year occurred in Missouri between 2008 and 2012.
To be truly effective, we must have a federally mandated universal background check so that criminals cannot go to neighboring states with weaker laws. Change more often starts locally and spreads outward and upward. We must start somewhere if we want to decrease the number of deaths by firearms in this country. The Oak Park referendum is one step in the process. One thing we can be sure of is that if we do nothing then nothing will get better. That, to me, is unacceptable.
Member of Gun Responsibility Advocates