Republican strategist Ana Navarro believes that Republicans would do well to get behind universal background checks for gun purchases as the best strategy for their floundering party. Navarro told “Meet the Press,”
“We need to understand that. The gun issue is here. It’s not going away. Every other day we are hearing about a tragedy on the news. And people keep asking, ‘What are we doing about it?’ Republican and the NRA should be part of the solution, should be part of the conversation, not just say, ‘No.’ And universal background checks is something that there could be consensus on.”
She is correct, Republicans, and especially the NRA, could be and should be part of the solution, however, some of the GOP, along with the NRA’s leadership, balk at even the most basic of common sense measures, such as universal background checks. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) believes that background checks will lead to a loss of American liberty. A Jan. 31 article in the Huffington Post carried the following quote from Hatch about background checks:
“When you start saying people all have to sign up for something, and they have a database where they know exactly who’s who, and where government can persecute people because of the database, that alarms a lot of people in our country, and it flies in the face of liberty.”
He went on to argue that the current background check system is sufficient, and works very well when it’s actually used. He doesn’t want to go further than that and jeopardize freedom and privacy.
Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, also believes that universal background checks won’t work. “It’s fraud to call it ‘universal. It’s never going to be universal. The criminals aren’t going to go along with it,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
That is a very popular refrain among the gun-rights lobby; that new laws won’t work because criminals don’t obey the law. What they don’t seem to realize is by that logic, we shouldn’t have any laws at all. Criminals are criminals because they don’t obey the law.
Current federal law requires background checks on all people who seek to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer, but does not require background checks for private sales, which include some of the sales at gun shows. Mark Kelly, NASA astronaut and husband of former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, told “Fox News Sunday” that the current system has stopped 1.7 million people from buying guns from dealers since 1999, but that some of those same people have done an end-run around the system by getting guns privately, where background checks don’t happen.
Approximately 40% of all gun sales in the U.S. don’t require a background check under the current law, according to Lindsey Nichols of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. LaPierre and others in the NRA, along with politicians like Hatch, believe that the current system, if it were properly used and enforced, would work beautifully. However, even if every state complied fully with this requirement (which some don’t, according to Nichols), the current system still has the massive gap of private sales. So if the purpose of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is to weed out criminals and people who are deemed ill to the point where they could potentially be violent, and all we need to do is make sure states properly enforce these background checks, how do we weed out the criminals and the mentally ill who buy their guns privately, either at gun shows from non-licensed dealers, or through friends, family, online, etc.?
Background checks, if nothing else, provide a deterrent. What’s more is that, according to poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans favor universal background checks. Surprisingly, the poll found that nearly that much of Congress also favors universal background checks. With so many that favor them, the squeaky wheels like the NRA and Senator Hatch may find themselves simply spinning, at least on this particular facet of the issue.