The question of background checks is the topic at hand. Every time President Trump is asked questions by the public, someone will should out a question about background checks. This subject is front and center in the media and on our mind as individuals and as a society.
What You Should Know About Background Checks
There are several ways to buy guns in the United States. You can buy them from a licensed retail outlet, a gun show, online, and through a private sale.
Background checks are only required if you purchase a gun through a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL). This includes retailers like Walmart and even small one-person gun stores. Typically, there are no background checks done on private sales.
You should check with the laws in your state and county of residence to be sure. Also, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. There may be additional laws in your state that are not federal laws.
A History of Background Checks
After President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King were assassinated, the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed. This Act prohibited certain people from buying guns. This included fugitives, people who had been in jail for more than a year for a crime committed, and people that committed domestic violence crimes.
The 1968 Act also required retailers and individuals selling firearms to obtain a Federal Firearms License and meet certain requirements. Keep in mind, this Act was passed long before the Internet.
The next legislation that was passed was the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. This was better known as the Brady Law or the Brady Bill. The Brady Law was passed in 1993 after press secretary Jim Brady was shot during an assassination attempt on then President Ronald Regan.
The Brady Law requires all FFLs to run background checks on people purchasing guns through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Again, in 1993, purchasing items online was not common place.
How do Background Checks Work?
If you want to buy a gun from a licensed vendor, you will fill out form #4473. This is a form authorizing you to buy a gun. This will also ask you for personal information so the background check can happen.
The background check itself takes about 30 seconds. If you do not have any red flags or problems in your background that would alert the FBI, you would pass your background check and be able to buy your gun. Right then, on the spot. However, if you have something that disqualifies you, then your purchase will be denied.
If there is something in your record that shows up during the 30 second check that needs further investigation, then the FBI has three business days including the day you apply, to make additional checks. This is because of the Brady Law.
You cannot legally purchase a gun:
- If you were convicted of a crime and were incarcerated for a year or more or a misdemeanor that had a sentenced of two + years.
- You are an addict.
- You are a fugitive and there are warrants out for your arrest.
- Found to be mentally ill by diagnosis.
- Are not a legal citizen
- Have a restraining order against you
- Have been convicted of domestic abuse.
Recent Action on Background Checks
Since February of 2018, the Trump administration has:
- Signed a law repealing the Social Security Administration rule or record submission to the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICBCS) for disability recipients prohibited from possessing guns due to a significant mental illness.
- Narrowed the definition of who is a fugitive under federal law, very much under the news radar, that allows more people who are fleeing the law to pass a background check and obtain a gun. In six months after this policy, the number of denials to fugitives dropped by 80%.
What do Democrats Want?
Democrats are largely pushing for H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which passed the House in February by a count of 240-190, with eight Republicans voting “yay.” The bill would require background checks on all gun sales, including private sales and those made at gun shows.
Democrats would also like to see the Senate vote on H.R. 1112, which also passed the House by a 240-190 margin in February. The bill would extend the time of 3 days to 10 days a gun dealer must wait to hear from the federal background-check system before proceeding with a gun sale.
This bill is sponsored by South Carolina representative Jim Clyburn, it has been called the “South Carolina Loophole Bill. In 2015, Dylann Roof, who was the shooter at a Charleston church and killed 9 people, was sold a gun after a dealer waited three days for a background check that never came. H.R. 1112 would force dealers to wait the full ten days before moving forward without a background check. Roof’s ten-day check would have disqualified him for a gun purchase.
What about Background Checks in Dayton or El Paso?
Would background checks have made a difference in either of the two recent mass shootings in America? The shooter in El Paso actually bought his gun legally and had no prior record. A background check did not find anything. Even more stringent background checks would have stopped him from buying a gun.
The shooter in Dayton did have a history of disturbances at school. He was reported to have threatened other students, but never acted on those threats. However, he also passed his background check and legally bought the guns he used.
Dayton and El Paso are two mass shootings in the United States. They are the shootings that begin the talk. These shootings start the debates, and begs the question, “What about the gun violence we hear on the news every morning and evening?” This is the daily crisis we are faced to find a solution in every community. But are more stringent background checks the answer?
More Laws or Enforcement of Current Laws?
The law prohibited Jody Hunt from owning a gun. So, when he wanted to buy a gun, he found a seller on Facebook. Hunt was a felon who had spent time in prison for abducting a girlfriend. In December of 2014, he used the handgun he bought on Facebook and killed his ex-girlfriend, a rival business owner, two others and himself.
Background checks cannot stop people like Jody Hunt from obtaining a gun online. Online shopping seems to be a loophole that keeps background checks from being as effective as they should be. Since online buying and selling online became as useful and popular as it is today, gun sales online have naturally increased.
Gun control supporters want to make background checks for all gun sales, whether they are online or in person. Many republicans oppose this based on the 2nd Amendment and also on the fact that the U.S. has background checks in place. Some will reasonably say, “It’s not the gun that commits the crime, it’s the person who commits the crime.”
About 20 states have their own comprehensive background check laws. Research has shown that these states see fewer guns used in crimes, but the added state checks alone did not lead to significant drops in gun related deaths.
Rather, state background check laws are more effective when they are working side by side with other situations requiring state or local permits to purchase weapons. Often these measures include additional requirements for fingerprinting and handgun safety training. It is these factors combined that have reduced homicides and suicides from guns
A Decision for Voters in Every State
Would stricter background checks have stopped the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Ohio? After reading the reports, we know the background checks would not have mattered. In fact, the background checks were passed on both individuals.
Would more laws about background checks change the day to day count of shootings, especially in larger communities? As a voter and a patriot, you need to dig into the research further and decide. This is one of those topics that is hard for some people to discuss with others. But maybe we should. A democracy cannot work unless the people involved can discuss both sides of the issues.
Patriots everywhere need to talk with each other about this issue. Perhaps you see the need for online sales to be included in background checks, but your neighbor doesn’t. Talk to each other. It’s the back and forth of conversation that helps us to come together to make choices that enrich our communities and make our streets safer for our children and grandchildren.
Go to community forums and find out what people are saying about background checks. Dive into research and know the facts behind your voice. Then your vote and your representation as a patriot will be even stronger.
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