Gun loophole tightening necessary to secure safe future


Urmilla Kuttikad

The cold metal of a gun used to be something to revere. It embodied the values Americans have fought for time and time again: liberty and individual rights.
But then, one too many school shootings broke the smiles off faces around the nation. One too many sobbing parents graced the television screen in the family room. One too many guns stole a child from the dinner table — nobody there to pick at peas and recount the dramatic events of the school day anymore.
Thus came Americans’ great disillusionment, casting everything into doubt. It was no longer clearly black and white whether guns were patriotic weapons defending liberty and individual rights or just weapons dealing death and sadness.
And yet, in spite of these unsettling doubts, almost every attempt at gun control since the Sandy Hook school shooting in December has failed. Only four states – Connecticut, New York, Maryland and Colorado – have passed any major gun control legislation. The federal assault weapons ban proposal has fizzled out, congressional Republicans continue their aggressive protection of gun rights and most congressional Democrats are too scared of losing votes to come out and support gun control.
The momentum and passion the gun control movement had right after the shooting is in a tragic downward spiral. We are dangerously close to doing nothing and moving on, as we have done with every other shooting before.
Americans are passionate about the ideals of liberty and individual rights our nation was founded on, and restrictions on guns seem like a direct threat to those ideals. We are paranoid that our hard-earned rights will be taken away, which is natural.
But there is a line. There is a degree to which guns and metaphorical patriotism can be prioritized over human lives, and we have surpassed it.
We may think we’re choosing patriotism when we fight for guns, but in fact, we’re doing just the opposite, for congressional behavior begs the question: what kind of patriotism is it we believe in if, within 100 days of 20 children and six adults being murdered, we are already ready to forget and move on? We should be ashamed if we do nothing and let their lives pass in vain.
Guns are weapons, weapons that can kill people. The least we can do is take precautions when trusting ourselves with guns, and though popular opinion may disagree, Americans are not entitled to guns without precautions – we can’t be. The entitlement of innocent children to their lives has to take ultimate precedence over everything else.
The most simple and effective precaution we can take is background checks. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The Brady Act mandated that those wishing to buy a gun from a federally-licensed dealer had to undergo a background check before they could purchase the gun. NICS effectively ensures that people with criminal backgrounds or mental illnesses don’t get guns.
Except for the fact that many gun transactions aren’t public; they’re private. In 33 states, anyone 18 or older can walk into a gun show or a private transaction and buy a gun, no background check necessary. The potential for danger is stunning.
The solution seems simple: make background checks universal. Though factions in our government often have a difficult time working together, it seems outlandish that anyone could possibly oppose a simple background check to keep guns from getting into hands that would use them to horrific ends.
Of course, such a hope would be naïve.
National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at the Conservative Political Action Conference a few weeks ago that those who wanted to expand background checks were “insane.” He believes expanded background checks would lead to a national registry of firearms (which is illegal under federal law), and that the government would use the registry to either tax or take guns.Essentially, the only argument against universal background checks is a paranoid hypothetical situation that has little to no chance of ever occurring. Unfortunately, this lone, delusional argument is also backed by a large amount of money.
Americans who still oppose background checks are being dragged, kicking and screaming, into reality and away from the delusional utopia they live in where everybody holds guns and hands. The kicking and screaming isn’t only embarrassing, it’s quite literally killing us.
Humans aren’t perfect, and we’ve forgiven that enough to let ourselves have guns anyway, but some humans are far from perfect, and we protect their right to simply be handed guns. The crimes they might commit are nothing compared to the far more heinous crime we commit when we are the ones providing them with weapons, knowing we didn’t take a single precaution.
Missouri is one of the few states looking to close the gun loophole within its borders this year. Missouri Rep. Stacey Newman has introduced House Bill 187, which would require background checks for all gun sales. She has been lobbying since 2000 against Missouri’s gun policies, but to no effect. It’s tragic that it took shootings becoming commonplace for anyone to care.
In February, Missouri Rep. Mike Leara proposed a bill that, if passed, would send people to jail for introducing legislation restricting gun rights. This would mean that Newman’s bill closing the background check loophole would give her an instant 4-year ticket to prison. Leara’s bill is unconstitutional, and he knows it, but he wanted it “to be clear that the Missouri House will stand in defense of the people’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
Many people agree with Leara’s sentiments. Missouri is a conservative state, and it flaunts its pro-gun attitude. But we have to fight back. Write letters to your representatives, make phone calls, inform whoever you can; the background check loophole must be closed in Missouri. A traditionally conservative state throwing politics aside and doing the right thing for its people is what the nation needs to set change in motion.
Sure, universal background checks on guns won’t solve all our problems, but when we’re still kicking and screaming, every little step counts.
By Urmila Kutikkad