As Congress debated the assault weapons ban in 1994, the NRA offered universal background checks as an alternative. Following the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, the NRA again called for universal background checks. But now that we’re once again looking for solutions to gun violence, the NRA leadership is adamantly opposed to universal background checks!
Their reasoning? Background checks don’t work.
They rightly claim that universal background checks will not work because the database is incomplete; that some states have not supplied necessary data on felons and those with mental health issues. What they neglect to mention is that NRA supporters have blocked the sharing of data.
The NRA leaders also claim that there are hundreds of gun laws on the books that are currently not being enforced. Again, they are correct…but only because an NRA-backed Republican, former Congressman Todd Tiahrt, attached amendments to appropriations bills in 2003 and 2004 limiting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. These amendments prohibit the creation of a national registry of firearms. They require data from background checks to be destroyed within 24 hours. They prohibit the ATFE from releasing any data on gun violence, except in aggregate. They even limit the use of tracing data to suspend a gun dealer’s license.
Worse yet, the ATFE has not had a permanent director since 2006 because NRA-endorsed Republican senators have refused to confirm presidential nominations. Even worse, the ATFE has too little money and far too few agents to do its job. Only a tiny fraction of the nearly 51,000 retail gun dealers can be inspected each year.
Things are further complicated by sequestration. Cuts to Medicaid and mental health care will likely result in even more Jared Loughners and Adam Lanzas being able to purchase guns.
This situation is completely untenable and the NRA knows it because the NRA created it to prevent any realistic limitation on gun sales. The NRA refuses to agree to universal background checks because they are incomplete and unenforceable. And the reason they are incomplete and unenforceable is because of the NRA and its lackeys in Congress!
As if all of this isn’t bad enough, the NRA has written and backed ever more permissive gun laws across the nation. In states like Arizona, any non-felon can walk into a gun shop and buy enough guns to arm a militia. The straw buyer can then walk across the street and re-sell those guns to a crime organization without restriction. If the police or ATFE agents arrest the straw buyer, the US attorney is unable to press charges because no laws were broken.
The laws may not have been broken. But the system is.