President John Kennedy once said, "A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." Fear is one of the strongest human emotions and the gun lobby knows this fact all too well.
Most national polls show that almost 90 percent of the American people -- as in "We the People" -- favor universal background checks for gun sales. It is hard to think about anything else that such a large majority of American's can agree on.
After essentially abandoning an assault weapons and high-capacity magazine ban last month, Congress is on the verge of jettisoning universal background checks. Why? The simple answer is that there is a disagreement in the Senate about how long records of these background checks can be kept. The broader answer is far more complex and perpetual.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has long fueled a conspiratorial fear that any kind of record keeping is always the first step in the government's clandestine plan to create a national registry of guns and, ultimately, total civilian disarmament. NRA President David Keene told CBS news in January that universal background checks, would lead to a national tracking registry of gun owners, "forced buybacks," and "door-to-door confiscation of specific weapons by the government." To be clear, this is your democratically elected, constitutionally ordered government that he is talking about as if it is some totalitarian regime that gained power through a military coup. On March 28, President Obama questioned the lack of action by Congress: "If they're not part of that 90 percent who agree that we should make it harder for a criminal or somebody with a severe mental illness to buy a gun, then you should ask them, why not? Why are you part of the 10 percent?" The truth is that there will not be a federal gun registry because the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act explicitly prohibits it.
The same unfounded fears have spurred legislation prohibiting the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) from releasing trace data to identify straw purchases of guns and study, in a macro sense, how guns get in the hands of criminals. When this legislation (The Tiahrt Amendment) was being debated, even Second Amendment stalwart Senator John McCain argued, "We cannot have a government that operates in secret and refuses to release information that shows where criminals have obtained a gun."
The same tactic has been used for years to stoke patently unfounded fears regarding the arms treaty that was passed last week by the United Nations General Assembly in a vote of 154-3. However, it will have to be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate, where the passage of an amendment last month foreshadows its defeat in light of Second Amendment concerns.The treaty's intent is to regulate international sales of arms to mitigate the mayhem inflicted by despots, tyrants, warlords and dictators. However, the NRA's executive vice president Wayne La Pierre told Fox News last July, "Right now it [The UN Treaty] would affect every handgun, rifle and shotgun American citizens own. The UN gun control plan is the most extreme imaginable. It says to people in the United States turn over your personal protection and your firearms to the government, and the government will protect you." The problem with this argument? It is completely false. We all learned in high school civics class that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land and supersedes any treaty. In fact the United States Supreme Court in its 1956 decision, Reid v. Covert, specifically ruled that the United States can not use its treaty power to violate Constitutional rights. To be extra clear, the UN treaty specifically mandates "non-intervention in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction" and that, individual countries will maintain all rights to "regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownerships." This treaty's purpose is to regulate illegal international sales that put weapons into the hands of mass killers who are too often committing genocide; it has absolutely nothing to do with your right to keep your Glock on your night table.
The truth is that the 2008 Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, unquestionably gives us a Constitutional right to possess guns in our homes. That is not going to change anytime soon. The highest arbiter of our Constitution has spoken. The gun rights movement won a titanic size victory, but the clarity of that ruling should allow us the confidence to make a dent in our dubious distinction of being labeled the country with 20 times the firearm death rates of other advanced industrial nations.
According to the Center for Disease Control, over 31,000 people die in America from firearms every year. We need to do those things that protect Americans while showing fidelity to our Constitutional liberties. Let's not get side tracked by a special interest group's fear mongering. Anyone who thinks we are doing enough to control the flow of guns into the hands of criminals should come walk a crime scene with me or talk to the parents of another young person lost to gun violence.
We must challenge our legislators to do something in the wake of Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson and the over 80 deaths everyday in America by firearms. Don't allow fear and twisted facts to stop us from making change that helps prevent tomorrow's gun deaths. We can do this while protecting law-abiding gun ownership. The vast majority of Americans get this... the only question is, why doesn't Congress?