The National Rifle Association (NRA) has come out in favor of full background checks. And here's proof:
If you want to work for the NRA, you'll need to agree to an investigation of your employment and financial history as well as, perhaps, your physical and mental health. (Can't have any wackos wandering around HQ.) If, however, you want to get your hands on a firearm, the NRA is doing all it can to make it easier for practically anyone to get anything from a revolver to a high-capacity, semi-automatic weapon without having to suffer the indignity of a background check.
Congress established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) when it enacted the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Act) of 1993. NICS contains data on individuals who have been convicted of crimes, have outstanding arrest warrants or are under restraining orders. A gun seller can check NICS online or by a phone and, if the purchaser is not in this database, get a response, in most cases, within two minutes.
Since, 1998, NCIS has processed 202.5 million transactions (through 2014), and cleared about 99.5 percent of the buyers. So, it is neither an onerous nor highly restrictive process.
Unfortunately, the law has a huge loophole: NIC is mandatory only for federally licensed dealers. It does not include most private sales or gun show transactions. Those sales are regulated--or, for the most part, not--by the states.
This glaring omission, known familiarly as the "gun show loophole," accounts for about 40 percent of all gun sales, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Others suggest the percentage is smaller. The truth is: no one knows. Given that NICS recorded about 21 million background checks in 2014, one might reasonably assume that several million other sales drew little or no scrutiny.
In May of 1999, barely a month after the massacre of 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre appeared before a congressional committee and testified: "We think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone."
The NRA has since backed away from that position and is actively working to make it easier for people to acquire firearms.
The American public, however, wants more gun control, not less.
In the October 2015 issue of Preventive Medicine, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported the results of a detailed 2015 survey of Americans regarding public policies with respect to firearms. (They conducted their first survey in 2013 in response to the December 2012 massacre of 20 elementary schoolchildren and six school staff in Newtown, CT.) Drawing on their 2015 findings, they concluded:
Two years after the tragedy in Newtown, our study of public support for 24 specific gun policies found large majorities of Americans continue to support a range of gun violence prevention policies. Support was strongest--with little difference between gun-owners and non-owners--for universal background check requirements for gun sales, barring individuals with temporary restraining orders for domestic violence from having guns, and certain regulations of licensed gun dealers.
Despite broad popular support for specific measures to keep guns from dangerous individuals, opponents of stronger gun laws have been more organized, singularly focused, and, until recently, better funded than supporters of these laws (Goss, 2006). Future action on these policies at the state or federal levels may depend on how successful advocates for stronger gun laws are in focusing the debate on the specific policies aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people and in energizing the large majorities of both gun-owners and non-owners who support these policies.
In the days following the massacre of nine individuals at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, Republican presidential candidates avoided any talk of legislation to control the sale and transfer of firearms.
By contrast, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, at a recent stop in New Hampshire, spoke with passion about the need to take effective action:
This epidemic of gun violence knows no boundaries, knows no limits of any kind. And when this happens, people are quick to say that they offer their thoughts and prayers. That's not enough. How many people have to die before we actually act? ...
It's time for us to say: wait a minute, we're better than this. Our country is better than this. We need to go back, and with all of our hearts--working not just in Washington but from the grass roots up--demand that we have universal background checks....
We have to close the loopholes. We've got the gun show loophole, and we've got what's now being called the Charleston loophole....
We also must address the very serious problem of military-style weapons on our streets.... We have got to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them: domestic abusers, people with serious mental health problems. There's got to be better tracking [and] record-keeping....
Ideally, what I would love to see [are] gun-owners, responsible gun-owners, [and] hunters form a different organization and take back the Second Amendment from these extremists!
Democratic presidential candidates in years past have largely skated around the issue of gun violence and avoided discussing legislative steps that might be able to reduce the horrible toll--more than 33,000 deaths per year--that firearms exact from our nation. If Clinton becomes the Democratic candidate in 2016, this issue could well move from the shadowed periphery of our politics to the center of the debate over our nation's domestic priorities.