The Smoking Gun

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The issue of gun control on any level is a conversation that many Americans, regardless of background, religion or political affiliation, are having. It comes up every time there is another shooting, there were 390+ shootings in 2015 alone, and the heartbreaking loss of life as a result. Gun control is a pertinent issue, given our country’s Second Amendment right to own and operate arms. In a study done by the Journal of Injury Prevention in June of 2015, they found that nearly 1 in 3 Americans currently own a firearm and  92 percent of Americans support background checks on gun purchases, according to a recent CBS/New York Times Poll. According to another recent poll,  51 percent of Americans believe that gun control laws should be made more strict, with only 46 percent believing that they should remain the same or become less strict. Those favoring background checks on gun purchases are also at a high, with 85 percent of Republicans and 97 percent of Democrats supporting them

The right to own and use a firearm in this country is one that has been fought about for decades. One side declares that they have the right to use their guns as it is a right afforded to them by the Second Amendment, while the other believes that the right to use guns is something that should be heavily checked and guarded, and are for the increased use of background checks for an increased sense of safety. The vendetta then is how do we ensure that gun owners are allowed their basic second amendment rights to purchase and use firearms while increasing the safety and security in which we sell and purchase them?

President Obama announced controversial Executive Gun Control legislation this past January, designed to reduce gun violence, bypassing the approval of Congress. The new law has:

  • Expanded background checks for gun buyers.
  • Requires individuals that are in the business of selling guns to register as licensed gun sellers.
  • Effectively narrowed the so-called “gun show loophole,” which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) cracked down on a rule that would require background checks for people buying more dangerous firearms through a trust or a corporation.
  • Created more gun safety by increasing mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system, and allotting $500 million to mental health care.

While previous gun laws for those who do not pass background/mental health checks seemed comprehensive, with federal law stating that it is unlawful for any person to sell a firearm to any person knowing they are battling mental illness or have been placed in a mental institution, it would seem more has to be done to secure that those who do not pass do not have access to purchase gun(s). With some states not performing optimally and submitting mental health records, such as Oklahoma and Alaska, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, and especially since many of the well-known mass shootings, including Virginia Tech, Tucson and Aurora, including others were committed by those who had mental illnesses and were able to purchase firearms legally, this needs to be corrected.

Despite gun rights activists claims that these laws serve for nothing more than to take gun access away, as the NRA said when they put out a statement claiming that these laws make it “abundantly clear that restricting the rights of America’s law-abiding gun owners will remain his focus in the last year of his tenure,” this simply does not add up, given the fact that the laws he has brought in only serve to make the purchase and sale of guns go into the hands of every regular law-abiding citizen, and stay away from those who fail mental health/background checks.

With the executive action that was just passed, we paved a good first step in achieving more background checks by having expanded their processings and making it clear that every sale will be accompanied by background checks; but this does not mean that all gun sellers/sales will adhere to them. We need to create a system in which we know that these background checks are happening, where we know that they are not being left up for chance, only to be corrected by a fee or by prison time. We should create an automated system in which these background checks, when completed, are registered and kept in a database for a year at most. This would recognize that it was done but keeps the identity of the person that purchased the firearms safely private, registered with an order number and the name kept under intense security. Under the current system, some background checks are still not being done and gun registrations are still low, which is a problem considering there are almost 400 million guns in the United States, compared  to a population of nearly 319 million. This would ensure that these background checks are registered and completed correctly, and available to the corresponding reporting systems that need them.

The move is not endangering gun rights, as it was never meant to do that; law-abiding citizens who pass these background checks should be allowed to use their guns, no questions asked. It is instead making access safer, allowing us to live in a place where gun access is safer, and that is something that everyone can live with.

Take Action: Sign this petition to support expanding Background Checks



Alexandra Van Erven is a PVNN Policy Corner writer who has an innate passion for politics, social issues and how they affect our society. She currently attends Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida as a senior majoring in Communications Studies; additionally, she is also working towards a minor in English. She has taken multiple journalism courses and writes for three other publications, including her University Magazine to help put her passion for Journalism and writing into a meaningful experience. In May of 2014, she started her personal blog, Pro-Life Female to voice her opinions about important social issues, including abortion.