by Alexander Chang (’23) | May 10, 2021
As the country slowly returns to normalcy, many aspects of American life have been welcomed back with open arms after their rather abrupt hiatus. However, a reality of our everyday lives has reared its ugly head once more: rampant gun violence. From the Indianapolis FedEx shooting on April 15 to the Pensacola shooting on the same day, Americans hear of such tragedies over and over again. Yet, it appears that most of our political leadership continues to remain perfectly content with “thoughts and prayers” rather than action, and the few politicians who do seem concerned with gun violence can only provide band-aid solutions that do not address the core issues behind gun laws in this country.
The “go-to” gun control measure among Democrats, for which the Biden administration recently voiced its support, is the implementation of universal background checks. This measure would require standard background checks to be spread across all gun sales at both gun shows and private sellings. Some simple research can quickly highlight the vast array of problems this legislation might have, though. First, universal background checks would still utilize FBI criminal databases, which are missing millions of criminal records and have essentially been rendered obsolete decades ago; the Sutherland Springs shooter managed to get hold of multiple handguns and rifles despite his criminal history. Second, background checks only prohibit those who have already committed crimes from purchasing a firearm, which is a rather large problem given that many shootings were first time offenses. These issues also assume that universal background checks will be passed in their entirety as legislation. Realistically speaking, the NRA will guarantee that any federal bill restricting gun purchases will be filled to the brim with riders, loopholes, and other sorts of legal jargon to weigh the legislation down. Weeks of filibustering by those in the Senate who support the NRA could render gun control even more inefficient than it is now.
All hope isn’t lost, however. While universal background checks might not be the path forward, a much more comprehensive form of firearm regulation could be the solution America needs: gun licensing. Similar to receiving a drivers license, gun licensing provides much more oversight and regulation. Under the current background check system, dangerous individuals can gain access to a firearm in as little as 108 seconds, which is the average time it takes the FBI to scan through their faulty system. However, under gun licensing, state officials have close to three weeks to check individuals’ history, provide firearms training, and screen buyers’ mental health. Gun licensure would thus eliminate most of the faults of the current background check system. Gun buyers would take gun safety courses where licensed officials would determine their eligibility to purchase firearms, and local law enforcement would oversee background checks, which would be far superior to the universal background checks that use the FBI’s database.
This is not to say my latter arguments against universal background checks do not apply. The NRA and pro-gun factions in Congress would definitely attempt to render such licensing ineffective. However, public support might not be in their favor this time. A Johns Hopkins public health study found that nearly 77% of all American approve of gun licensing policies, and 12 states already have a version of gun licensing in effect. Connecticut, for instance, passed gun licensing regulations in 1995, resulting in nearly 40% fewer homicides in the following years. Compare that to California, which only expanded background check policies and saw no change whatsoever regarding gun violence.
The solutions Americans need are all there. Whether or not Congress actually plans on taking action will be another story.
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