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Background checks keep guns from wrong hands

Christopher Johnson, Opinion Writer
April 24, 2013
Filed under Opinion

Recently in Texas, a 20-year-old man went on a rampage on a small college campus with a knife, wounding 14 people, two of them seriously. Incidents like this show that bad guys with bad intentions don’t necessarily need a high capacity assault rifle to inflict horror, injury or paranoia on a community.

Fortunately, since 1901 there have only been seven mass stabbing incidents in the U.S. where four or more victims were killed, according to USA Today. However, gun control opponents who use an incident like this to detract from gun control legislation are blatantly irresponsible.

Recent incidents in Colorado and Connecticut have once again brought this troubling issue squarely into America’s focus. Heated debates in Congress are underway on how to curb gun violence in our country, and while I don’t usually agree with many things Democrats try to implement, expanding background checks and policing Internet sales of weapons is one area I back wholeheartedly.

Americans need to understand manufacturing high caliber, military-style weapons isn’t only having an impact here, but it’s also having a devastating effect in Mexico. In addition to the sensational stories of mass shootings that are becoming all too common here in the U.S., what most of us don’t hear about are the almost daily gun battles being waged on the streets of Mexico by drug cartels using weapons manufactured right here in the U.S.

Many of those weapons were bought in border states such as Texas in illegal straw purchases. A straw purchase is when an individual legally purchases a high-capacity firearm and then turns around to sell it to someone who wouldn’t have been able to initially purchase it. This is a very common practice by Mexican drug cartels, and the results are easy to see: American guns and money flow into Mexico, and drugs flow onto the streets of the U.S.

NPR said two senators, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), put together an amendment that would have expanded background checks to gun shows and the Internet. Yet, it didn’t even pass the Senate.

However, I’m not naive enough to believe legislation alone will solve the problem of gun violence on our streets. For every shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater and shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there is an all too typical weekend in America where random gun violence is the norm. The Chicago Tribune reported two deaths and nine woundings in random shootings across that city alone on a recent Friday night. If New York City, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles were also taken into account, the death toll from gun violence on that Friday evening alone would outnumber the victims from Aurora and Sandy Hook combined.

It’s facts such as these that gun control opponents cite as reasons to avoid expanded background check legislation. Many cite self-defense concerns, which I understand to a certain extent, but they also feel they are being unfairly targeted by gun control legislation, which is ridiculous. Is monitoring somebody’s ability to buy a high capacity weapon and magazines or clips really trampling all over an individual’s 2nd amendment rights? I don’t believe it is, but sitting back and doing nothing isn’t an option, either.

I have several friends and relatives that legally own arsenals in their homes. They are among the most conscientious and responsible people I know. Every single one of us was trained by the military in the proper usage of and safety measures of these weapons. I would take no pity on any idiot who would make the mistake of breaking into any of their homes and threatening their families.

I always chuckle when I hear classic rocker and gun enthusiast Ted Nugent go off on one of his politically driven tirades about gun control. I love Nugent’s music and I support his right to own weapons and hunt, but I don’t think my friends or Nugent needs a .50 caliber high capacity weapon to put down a home intruder or Bambi on a controlled hunt.

Gun control opponents may even point to several recent media reports of women defending themselves in their homes by dropping intruders with handguns. Good job, ladies. If would-be intruders get the message that breaking and entering can be costly to their health, they may wisely decide on a different career path. But traditional small-arms and training will more than do that job sufficiently. Self-defense and hunting doesn’t require an AR-15 or a Tec-9.

Requiring background checks for people to purchase weapons isn’t a violation of anybody’s Second Amendment rights. It’s simply common sense. It seems to me, anybody who wants to own a weapon should have nothing to hide. They can embrace the fact that they will own the weapon legitimately and the number of weapons of that nature reaching the hands of criminals will be curtailed. It isn’t taking a gun out of the hands of a good person. It’s making sure the individual who wants to purchase a gun isn’t a raving lunatic.

Again, introducing legislation like this won’t do much in the way of dealing with the numbers of guns already out there in the hands of gang bangers and criminals, but it’s certainly a good first step in the direction of stemming the tide of newly produced weapons from hitting our streets. And although there are a variety of weapons used to inflict harm on others such as knives and box cutters (anybody so inclined can even use a pencil), it’s the rampant use of guns that’s causing the most harm.

Tightening control over who purchases a weapon and how they obtain it should not even play into firearms advocates paranoia over losing Second Amendment rights.