The recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, and recognition of the threat of white supremacists, has triggered renewed public interest in gun control legislation, and why not? U.S. civilians have well over 400 million firearms, 40 percent of all those in the world, and 88 times the number of guns in our military. The gun lobby fervently resists universal background checks, in spite of the fact that 88 percent of all registered voters and an overwhelming majority of President Trump’s base, Republicans and evangelicals, favor them.
The current federal gun laws contain a major loophole that renders background checks essentially useless. Buying from a dealer necessitates a background check, which is only an inconvenience for a legitimate buyer. However, the people who we want to keep guns away from, those who could not pass a background check, can simply buy a gun from a private seller or over the internet. Transactions between private sellers and buyers do not require a background check.
Eyes on the prize! In the coming debate, the gun lobby and overzealous gun control advocates will try to muddy the water by bringing up less important issues, such as mental health. We must demand that, at a minimum, Congress first pass a simple law requiring universal background checks without any loopholes. Then we can focus on banning assault weapons.