Despite a Democratic Congress and President, it’s been a bad time for common sense measures to curb gun violence.
Earlier this year, a voting rights bill for the citizens of the District of Columbia was stalled by a Senate amendment that would strip the city of its right to regulate guns. And last month, the credit card reform bill was hijacked in the Senate and amended so that concealed guns are now permitted in our national parks.
Here’s hoping the majority of Americans who support sane gun control begin to turn the tide.
Bills have now been introduced in both the House and Senate to at long last close the absurd and dangerous gun show loophole which permits the sale of guns without any criminal background check.
Background checks are required for any gun purchase at federally licensed dealers. The result? 1.6 million felons and other prohibited purchasers have been stopped from buying guns. But those same people can go to a gun show in more than 30 states and buy a weapon — no questions asked. It doesn’t matter, for example, if Maryland requires a background check when the same individual can cross into Virginia and buy an assault weapon without a hitch. That’s why 4 out of 10 guns are sold by unlicensed sellers without background checks.
The Columbine killings were committed using two shotguns, an assault rifle, and a TEC-9 assault pistol — all four weapons were purchased from gun shows. The person who bought three of the weapons later said she wouldn’t have done so if a background check had been required. Recently, the brother of a Virginia Tech victim was followed by ABC News into a gun show where he was able to purchase ten guns in under an hour — again, no questions asked.
Senator Frank Lautenberg’s Gun Show Background Check Act would require background checks at any event where 50 or more firearms are offered for sale. It wouldn’t stop a grandfather from giving his prized handgun to his grandson, as the cynical NRA would have America believe. Nor does it take on the 2nd Amendment. Despite the NRA’s whipping gun owners into a buying frenzy over the notion that President Obama and the Democrats are coming after their guns — a hysteria that has led to a surge of sales at gun shows nationwide — this legislation does no such thing.
It simply insists — in the interest of public safety — that you clear a criminal background check before buying a gun.
“There is no rational reason to oppose closing the loophole,” Senator Lautenberg said when he introduced the bill with 14 cosponsors last month just days after the 10th and 2nd anniversaries of the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech, respectively. “The reason it’s still not closed is simple: the continuing power of the special interest gun lobby in Washington.”
Which brings us to the politics.
The Senate bill is in the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy, who perhaps has made a decision in his career to never be outflanked by a pro-gun opponent — despite his generally progressive values. So, frankly, the prospect of the bill getting a hearing there is bleak. The House Judiciary Committee is chaired by Congressman John Conyers so it might stand a better chance of consideration there. Conyers has supported similar legislation in the past and will in all likelihood support this bill too.
What seems more likely, however, is that the legislation might be offered as an amendment to a different bill — the same tactic the GOP has employed to try to get guns on Amtrak, in our national parks, and throughout our nation’s capitol. In 1999, Senator Lautenberg successfully passed legislation identical to this bill as an amendment to a juvenile justice bill (it was later killed in a House-Senate conference).
The White House has clearly made a political decision at this time not to push for closing the gun show loophole or the assault weapons ban — both of which it clearly supports and would gladly sign into law.
So it’s time for rational, concerned citizens to take matters into their own hands. Polls show over 85 percent of the public wants the gun show loophole closed now. That’s a lot of voters. Speak out — let your Senators and Representatives know where you stand. Threaten to stop any contributions to representatives who won’t listen. Hold house parties to get the word out. Ask MoveOn and bloggers to launch a day of blogging to ensure people know how wrongheaded this is.
Don’t let the NRA’s lies and fulmination hold sway over this life-saving measure.