Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. That is the mantra held by the NRA and its members. The NRA opposes any form of gun regulation because they assert that it is not guns that are the problem, it is the bad people who use them. In fact, they go on to say that it will only be a good guy with a gun that will stop a bad guy with a gun.
Yet, the NRA opposes weeding out the good guys from the bad guys when it comes to purchasing guns.
The NRA emphatically opposes universal background checks for firearm purchases which would require all states to perform a search of federal criminal databases for all gun purchases. Universal background checks would fix current loopholes that exist in various states. Many states do not require background checks on all gun purchases. For example, in Alabama, background checks are not required on any private gun purchases, including handguns. In Pennsylvania, private sale of long guns, including assault rifles, do not require a background check. Won’t it be criminals that take advantage of these loopholes?
Background checks help keep guns out of the wrong hands. Plain and simple. For law-abiding citizens, this is an easy and speedy process (if you have ever purchased a firearm from a dealer in Pennsylvania, which requires the search of both state and federal databases, you know that it takes just a few minutes). Universal background checks make it all the more difficult for criminals to obtain firearms.
So why does the NRA oppose universal background checks when nearly 90% of Americans and 74% of NRA members support the measure? If you’re an NRA member, you might want to call them and ask. Perhaps it is because the NRA supports gun manufacturers rather than gun owners. Selling guns is what gun manufacturers do and what the NRA is about….whether the gun is purchased legally or illegally, gun manufacturers are still making money.
Of course, the NRA says that gun laws are ineffective because criminals do not obey laws and will acquire guns through whatever means possible. This is true. Criminals are not above stealing guns. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, over 145,000 firearms were stolen in the U.S. in 2010 alone. However, according to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), only 10-15% of weapons used by criminals are stolen. (Source: PBS Frontline)
The ATF suggests that the majority of guns used by criminals are purchased legally by someone and then sold or transferred to the criminal. These transactions are called straw purchases — when an individual knowingly makes the purchase for someone who is lawfully unable to own a firearm.
The NRA opposed recent legislation that called for harsher penalties on straw purchases. They claim such attempts would impose penalties on innocent people.
The NRA proposed amendments that would place the burden on law enforcement officers to prove that the individual purchasing the gun intended to commit a crime by acquiring the gun for someone else (Source: The Hill). The NRA’s proposed language, however, effectively nullifies the straw purchase law meaning the act of selling a weapon to an unlawful recipient would no longer be the crime. Per the NRA’s revisions, a crime would only exist if law enforcement officials can prove that the individual purchasing the gun for someone else intended to be an accessory to a crime that may have been committed.
The NRA proposes to water down the very law that needs strengthened; in fact, an added measure should ensure the straw purchaser be charged as an accessory to any crime committed with the acquired firearm.
The bipartisan federal gun legislation proposed a few weeks ago would have made these transactions a felony, recommending a 15 year prison term for the straw purchaser or 25 years if the weapon they purchased ultimately was used in a violent crime. The NRA effectively killed this gun legislation; a minority of NRA-funded senators blocked a vote on the bill.
Many states regard straw purchases simply as a misdemeanor. In Arizona, for example, the law clearly states that it is illegal to transfer a weapon to someone who is prohibited by law to posses a firearm. In an editorial by the Arizona Daily Star calling on Congress to make these transactions a felony the editorial board explained, “if convicted under the [current] state law, the defendant would be eligible for probation, or could face a sentence of six months to 1.5 years.” (Source Arizona Daily Star)
In 2012, Governor Corbett signed a law that would re-impose a 5-year minimum sentence for anyone making a repeat straw purchase in Pennsylvania. (Source: Montgomery Media) Repeat. How many straw purchases does it take for a weapon to get into the wrong hands? Pennsylvania allows for multiple straw purchases before a harsher prison term is imposed.
Universal gun laws related to background checks and illegal purchases make it less likely that guns will get into the wrong hands and provides universal rules for an item that can easily be slipped across state borders. Even states that had the political will to pass strong gun control measures are victims of weaker, across-the-border gun laws. The ATF seized 8793 guns in New York, which arguably boasts the toughest gun laws in the nation; they found only 1595 were purchased in the state. (Source: New York Post)
If the NRA is really on the side of law-abiding citizens than why do they oppose measures that would make it harder for criminals to access firearms? It seems that it is in the best interest of gun advocates to support gun control laws that will prevent the next mass shooting or decrease the annual number of crimes and homicides brought forth from the barrel of a rifle or handgun. In 2011, 68% of homicides in the United States were a result of firearms (Source: FBI).
So the NRA is almost right: guns don’t kill people. People with guns kill people. You could even say bad people with guns kill people.
And the NRA kills bills that could keep these guns out of the hands of bad people…why?!