By Teresa Welsh |
On October 21, 2012, Radcliffe Haughton killed three women, including his wife, Zina Haughton, and wounded four others at a Wisconsin day spa before turning his gun on himself. He purchased the handgun used in the shooting without a background check from a private seller he met through the website Armslist.com.
Two days earlier, Houghton had become the subject of a domestic violence restraining order that prohibited him from purchasing or possessing firearms. With the restraining order in place, he could not have purchased the weapon from a licensed dealer. Such dealers are required by law to conduct background checks on gun buyers.
It is patently clear that background checks save lives. Background checks conducted by federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) have prevented more than two million prohibited purchasers—convicted felons, wife beaters, and other dangerous individuals—from buying guns. Additionally, studies show that in the 14 states that currently require background checks for handgun sales, there are 49 percent fewer gun suicides, 38percent fewer women are shot to death by an intimate partner and the firearms trafficking rate is 48percent lower.
That's why more than 90 percent of Americans—and 74 percent of NRA members—support universal background checks.
Faced with the reality of that polling data, the NRA has concocted a boogeyman about universal background checks leading to a national registry of gun buyers and then forcible confiscation of privately-held firearms.
The problem is this claim is hogwash. New York Senator Chuck Schumer's Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013 would utilize a record-keeping system that's already been in place for 45 years (without any harm to gun buyers). Private sellers would conduct background checks through FFLs, who would then maintain paper records of these sales.
The federal government completely purges the information it receives from the dealer to run the background check after just 24 hours and the United States Code expressly prohibits the federal government from maintaining a national registry of gun owners. Moreover, the Supreme Court recently affirmed that there is a constitutional right to have a firearm in the home.
The NRA's conspiracy theory about "confiscation" deserves to be put in the same category as FEMA camps and black helicopters: Pure unadulterated fantasy. In the wake of the horrific tragedy at Newtown, Americans deserve a real debate on universal background checks, and an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.
About Joshua Horwitz Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence