The Case for Universal Background Checks

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The Newtown tragedy should have been a wake-up call to those in Congress who oppose even the most innocuous measures to keep guns from dangerous people. The case for action could not be any clearer. Background checks work.

The existing federal gun background check system has prevented almost two million criminals and dangerous individuals from buying guns. These checks take minutes to complete and they can make the difference between life and death.

Comprehensive background checks will also help law enforcement spot gun traffickers. Under the current system of unregulated private sales, law enforcement is limited in its ability to identify the chain of custody of a firearm before it ends up being used to take a life. Legislation pending in Congress would simply expand this background check system to private sales that take place with no paperwork and no questions asked. Our current system is akin to two lines at the airport: In one, you must undergo security checks and in the other you may simply sail through.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

Congress should know that nationally, 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks. Even the National Rifle Association (NRA) was for background checks before it decided it was against them. Why would the NRA leadership be against background checks? Fewer gun sales.

In New York, we recently passed the NY SAFE Act, giving our state the most comprehensive gun laws in the country. But gun violence is a national problem that requires a national solution. We cannot stop illegal guns from being trafficked into our communities without Congress.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

In 2011, 76 percent of the crime guns used in New York State to kill, rob, rape and harm our citizens came from states with much weaker gun laws. In addition to the human tragedy and loss, we as taxpayers pay a huge toll in medical costs, police time, and prison costs due to the illegal guns that arrive on our streets because of weak gun laws in other states.

Congress should carry out the will of the people—not the will of the gun industry or the NRA. Over 3,300 people in the U.S. have been killed with guns since Newtown. Congress has a responsibility to face facts and pass background check legislation now.

Leah Gunn Barrett

About Leah Gunn Barrett Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence

gun control and gun rights
Obama, Barack

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