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Taking a Shot at the US' Terrible Gun Control

by Patrick Godbout

November 16, 2016 | Voices

via Sofia Sforza

27 at Sandy Hook, 32 at Virginia Tech, 49 at the Pulse Nightclub, and the list goes on. How many more people have to die before the US government realizes there’s a problem? It’s not very difficult to see that gun laws and background checks in the US are not detailed enough to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.

Let’s start with the obvious; the federal obligations imposed by the US government for background checks are simply not in-depth enough to be what people have faith in. According to an article in The Trace (a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that focuses on expanding public knowledge on gun violence), it doesn’t take much to get through the background check when purchasing a weapon. Upon purchase of a weapon in the united states, the FBI checks the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS), which contains an individual’s criminal and mental health history, dishonourable military discharges, immigration status, drug use, and whether or not they are under indictment.

Although this seems fairly thorough, there’s still one big issue. What should be considered top priority when verifying if someone is fit to own a gun? The Trace claims that in the 17 years that the NCIS has been online, only 21,000 applicants have been denied because they were deemed mentally unfit. This seems like a big number, but when compared to 150,000 fugitives, 120,729 domestic offenders, and 109,875 unlawful drug users, it really is minimal.

Not only do these numbers prove that the FBI is not prioritizing the right things when conducting background checks, but there are other numbers to back up these claims. According to a Washington Post article about all mass shootings since 1966, 245 guns have been brought to crime scenes by shooters. Of these 245 guns, 140 of them were traced back and found to have been 100% legally bought. Only 39 of these guns were actually traced back and found to be illegally purchased by the shooters, the rest were of unknown origin. Simple math could tell us that even if the untraced guns were illegally purchased, they still would not consist of the majority of those 254 guns used by shooters.

Many people will argue that changing the gun laws and making them stricter will not actually change anything, after all, if a criminal wants a gun, they’ll find a way to get it, right? According to the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, Daniel Webster, this is actually wrong. If we think about this argument for more than 3 seconds, we realize that it’s truly flawed. This logic could be used to dismiss literally any law, if we thought this way about everything, laws wouldn’t exist. It’s comparable to saying “why is there a law telling you not to kill people if a murderer will not obey it?” The reason is simple; there are consequences for breaking a law and those consequences are enough to have someone think before they act, deterring offenders. When we look at the case for gun laws, the Washington Post’s research shows that state universal background checks and state laws that prohibit criminals from purchasing guns always reduce gun availability for high risk groups.

All of this without mentioning other deaths related to gun violence that didn’t occur during mass shootings. So much trouble is caused by something that could be so easily fixed by the US government. Simply imposing stricter background checks on people attempting to purchase guns would be a step in the right direction.


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