Luke Messer is Republican representative from Indiana.
Gandhi once said that "the best politics is right action." President Obama should have followed that sage advice when proposing a response to recent shootings that have shocked the nation. Instead, the president offered the false choice that limiting Second Amendment rights would somehow make America's children safer.
This misstep was a missed opportunity for real reform that would actually focus on mental illness, strengthen school security and help keep guns out of the hands of criminals. We are all heartbroken by mass shootings in Connecticut, Colorado and elsewhere, but the push for universal background checks is a case study in crafting policies that don't solve problems.
The Aurora movie theater shooter and the gunman who shot former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords both passed background checks. Sen. Joe Manchin, lead sponsor of a recently rejected Senate background check amendment, admitted that the families of the Newtown victims knew that "this legislation … would not have saved their little babies" because the shooter stole the gun he used.
Supporters of expanded background checks have failed to acknowledge the obvious: Law-abiding citizens already comply with existing restrictions, and most criminals don't. Many criminals obtain guns through theft or unlawful straw purchases, where someone legally obtains a firearm and illegally transfers it to someone else. Thus, any new restriction is more likely to limit purchases by law-abiding citizens, not criminals.
Yet proponents latched on to background checks as the answer to gun violence. Supporters heralded polls supposedly showing the support of 90 percent of the American people for enacting such legislation. I may be overly suspicious of people who get paid to elicit such opinions, but multiple polls taken before last year's presidential election showed Mitt Romney would be president. President Romney might share my skepticism.
The political drumbeat for gun control has become so deafening that supporters are grasping for a symbolic victory of almost any type. But the impact of their proposals would be anything but symbolic for law-abiding citizens. For example, despite an existing three-day federal gun background check mandate, Colorado's backlogged system was averaging a seven-day wait this year. More federal background check requirements would only compound these problems in Colorado and elsewhere, particularly in rural areas where gun transactions are often less easily processed.
The American people are ready for real results and not merely symbolic victories. My guess is that President Obama would find overwhelming bipartisan support in the House for simple solutions to make America's schools more secure. He also might find common ground on both sides of the aisle for initiatives to enhance mental health services. We all want to ensure that those who need professional help get it before they become unhinged and resort to violence against innocent victims, whether with a gun, knife or their bare hands.
The tragedies in Newtown, Aurora and elsewhere have been compounded by those who manipulated these horrific crimes to advance a political agenda at the expense of real solutions. President Obama should stop trying to score political points by vilifying those who believe in the Second Amendment. Instead, he should demand that Congress improve school security and enhance mental health screenings to prevent gun violence. Congress might just pass good policy if he does.
- Read the U.S. News Debate: Should Congress Support Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases?
- Read the U.S. News Debate: Should There Be More Armed Guards in Schools?
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