To some extent, we all believe in firearms control. We don't think 10 year olds should be able to buy handguns or grenades. We don't think machine guns should be sold at Walmart, or shoulder-fired missile launchers. It's important to remember that most of us, regardless of which side we are on, want our nation to be safer and at the same time - we don't want to limit important individual rights.
Things Most Americans Believe In:
In a recent comprehensive poll, The New England Journal reported, "We found smaller differences than we anticipated between gun-owners and non–gun-owners." [NEJM 1/29/13] Even among NRA members, there were surprisingly similar attitudes about basic gun reform.
"All policies bolstering background checks and oversight of gun dealers were supported by majorities of gun-owners. A majority of members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) supported many of these policies as well. For instance, 84% of gun-owners and 74% of NRA members (vs. 90% of non–gun-owners) supported requiring a universal background-check system for all gun sales; 76% of gun-owners and 62% of NRA members (vs. 83% of non–gun-owners) supported prohibiting gun ownership for 10 years after a person has been convicted of violating a domestic-violence restraining order; and 71% of gun-owners and 70% of NRA members (vs. 78% of non–gun-owners) supported requiring a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years in prison for a person convicted of selling a gun to someone who cannot legally have a gun."
There is also a large amount of agreement on issues regarding mental health. "Fifty-nine percent of respondents supported increased government spending on mental health care, and 61% favored greater spending on such care as a strategy for reducing gun violence."
Another important area of agreement among most of us is the idea of individual responsibility-- keeping weapons out of the hands of children, from thieves, those with mental instability, addiction, depression or anger issues. You may be surprised to know that Utah does not hold individuals responsible for keeping guns safely away from their children or other's children. Some laws do really help with gun violence, and at the very least, provide legal accountability for those who are irresponsible.
Universal Background Checks On All Gun Purchases:
We support improving and expanding the background check requirements for gun purchases so that private sales and all gun show transactions are not exempt. Existing background check laws only cover gun sales by federally licensed dealers. Sales by non-dealers (the secondary gun market) account for approximately 30 to 40 percent of all gun transfers in the United States. An even larger share of guns used in crime were purchased legally in the secondary market. This unregulated market is currently exempt and represents a gaping “loophole” in law.
In 2012, Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that 74 percent of NRA members support a criminal background check for the purchase of all guns, even at gun shows, and 71 percent support banning those on the terrorist watch list from buying a gun. Officially the NRA leadership does not support this step, despite ongoing polling that demonstrates their members support it. And as you can see from the NEJM poll above, these poll numbers are in agreement.
Utah has a very active classified gun market. After the Newtown massacre, KSL.com put their classified firearms listings on hold. Before then it was one of the most active classified markets in the country. A police probe into KSL.com revealed 73% of sellers were willing to sell a gun to someone who openly stated they would not pass a background check. [Wall Street Journal, 12/14/11] Following is an exerpt from a conversation from the police probe:
“You’re not like a licensed guy, are you?” the investigator asks.
“No,” the seller replies.
“OK, so no background checks or anything like that?” the investigator says.
“No, I’m just a private person,” the seller replies.
“Oh, that’s good, ‘cuz I probably couldn’t pass one,” the investigator says.
“Yeah,” the seller replies. “I probably couldn’t either.” Then they both laugh.
We think most of us can agree, these types of sales should not be legal, and advertising firearms online which do not require a background check also should not be legal. Used firearms can be sold through licensed dealers who perform background checks, and sell the guns in a consignment shop or similar type of arrangement. In fact there are some online classified sites for interstate used gun sales which do this already. They require a background check and proof of identity before releasing the gun to the new owner.
Concerns about Confiscation and Second Amendments Rights:
Although Congress and the White House are not proposing, and have never proposed gun confiscation, many are fearful and concerned about this. The NRA and some gun advocacy groups focus on gun confiscation to bolster the political action of their members and to garner press attention. They use these fears as a tactic to further the agenda of manufacturers who are most interested in selling more guns. Unfortunately, many gun rights advocates say we can't have ANY restrictions whatsoever because ANY restriction is always the first step toward 'inevitable confiscation.' The flaw in this premise is that it assumes there are no other stopping points along the way in the process. It's kind of like saying placing a band-aid on a wound always leads to surgery. It really is not fair when the NRA equates background checks with a public registry of gun owners and then confiscation. We have to find a balance between sensible gun rights and public safety.
The Second Amendment, like all amendments in our Bill of Rights is not an unlimited right. The intent of the 2nd Amendment was a "well-regulated militia" not "anyone can have as many guns as he wants and take them wherever." The language states very clearly – “well regulated.” And we believe that particular part of the 2nd Amendment needs our attention. A reasonable public discussion needs to happen. What kinds of regulations should our society have? We can have a civil dialogue, and know that reasonable regulations are constitutional, and will not lead confiscation. There are many things we can do to improve and reduce the number of gun deaths in Utah and throughout the country. We are not going to cure all crime, and we are not going to stop all gun deaths, but we certainly can do better. Regulations that govern the auto industry and traffic laws have worked in reducing automobile deaths and injuries. Laws that relate to drunk and drugged driving have also reduced the numbers of injury and death. We can reduce the tragic toll of gun violence, but we need to do the same kind of public relations legwork that happened in other areas affecting public health.
Many of us at Utah Parents Against Gun Violence own firearms. We, like most Americans realize that our constitutional right to bear arms can coexist with efforts to make our communities safer from gun-related violence.