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Universal Firearms Background Checks -- There's Got to Be an App for That

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Most Americans believe that with freedom comes responsibility -- and that one measure of responsible gun ownership is a background check. There must be an app for that. This idea came to me the way creative thoughts often do -- in a discussion with someone from a different experience than my own. I visited with a Republican gun shop owner to share with him Democratic National Committee resolution to see if we could find common ground. We did -- on the need for universal background checks and the role that tech companies can play in developing a LiveScan-type app and related technology to facilitate universal mobile online background checks.

Here's the resolution I wrote:

The following Resolution will be considered by the Resolutions Committee at its meeting in conjunction with the full DNC Meeting in Washington, D.C. on January, 22, 2012.

Resolution on Gun Violence Prevention:

WHEREAS, from Aurora to Tucson to Oak Creek to Sandy Hook -- from our schools to our places of worship to our inner city streets -- too many people have died from gun violence and we cannot honestly say that we have done all we could to protect our people; while our hearts are broken but our spirits are not, we are ready to act on gun violence prevention; and

WHEREAS, the vast majority of the American people, including a majority of gun owners, support both the Second Amendment and common sense gun violence prevention measures including background checks and restrictions on dangerous and unusual weapons; and

WHEREAS, Vice President Joe Biden has been tasked by President Barack Obama to integrate ideas from law enforcement, educators, mental health professionals, gun owners and victims' families in order to change our policies; and just as Biden's 1994 Crime Bill put more cops on the beat and took illegal guns off the street, our 2013 mission requires an all of the above strategy for gun violence prevention; and

WHEREAS, parents, educators and law enforcement must work together to keep our children safe and, while we don't have the resources to afford a school police substation and community health center in every school, prioritizing community policing and mental health treatment for our students on campus and in community centers will increase safety and mitigate danger; and

WHEREAS, President Obama has called on Congress to take up and pass common-sense legislation that has the support of the majority of the American people, including banning the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and making sure criminals can't take advantage of legal loopholes to get their hands on a gun; Senator Dianne Feinstein's Assault Weapons Ban would ban the sale, transfer and importation of assault weapons, and Congresswomen Carolyn McCarthy and Diana DeGette's high-capacity magazine ban are examples of legislation that are central to this debate; and

WHEREAS, we must evaluate Internet sales of guns and ammunition, require background checks on every gun purchaser including at gun shows, keep guns out of the hands of children, the mentally ill, those convicted of crimes and those on the terrorist watch list; and

WHEREAS, we must reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and its tough penalties for using guns against intimate partners and its resources for inputting restraining orders into the national crime database so batterers can't buy guns; and

WHEREAS, we must work to de-stigmatize mental health and strike a better balance between reporting threats and waiting until a troubled person commits a crime for a "paper trail" to begin before we suffer domestic violence murders, mass shootings and suicides. We must fund the mental health services within the Affordable Care Act, the various department budgets and community health centers vital to assisting Americans in need of treatment; and

WHEREAS, we do know that Americans have evolved on these issues and increasingly reject the shopworn slogans of the past. Our legislators need to catch up before even more lives are lost to preventable gun violence. There will always be a next time, but there can be fewer and less deadly next times if Americans summon the courage to join the fight of our lives -- the fight to save our children from gun violence; and

WHEREAS, President Barack Obama has called us all to service, saying "Ultimately if this effort is to succeed it's going to require the help of the American people -- it's going to require all of you. If we're going to change things, it's going to take a wave of Americans -- mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals -- and, yes, gun owners -- standing up and saying 'enough' on behalf of our kids;"

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Democratic National Committee extend sincere condolences to all the families and friends of those whose lives were needlessly cut short by gun violence; extend prayers, well wishes, thoughts and positive energy, to all those who are still recovering physically and emotionally; commend the courageous efforts of the First Responders, whose quick and noble actions keep us safer; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Democratic National Committee is ready to act on gun violence and urge all Americans to strive, as President Obama said, "to do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."

When I brought this resolution out of my urban neighborhood to meet a rural gun shop owner, he walked me though a background check.

I looked over the gun purchase paperwork, including the ATF Form 4473 that includes criminal, mental health and citizenship related questions and requires a fingerprint to be attached to the paper. He also described the LiveScan technology that his gun club uses to ensure that members are all cleared to own firearms.

You know this LiveScan technology -- most of you use it in the gym or at the DMV, where a fingerprint scan can yield information from national and state databases.

The lightbulb moment happened: why not create an app for that? I asked whether an app for that would work to facilitate the check. Absolutely -- in fact, he'd prefer if "Mr. Bloomberg" and the other tech moguls would donate money to distributing these apps and related technology to "take the politics out of this." Now I don't think we'll ever take the politics out of the gun violence prevention debate entirely, but technology is a great place to start. Imagine if we had the technology available for gun shows so that we could close the loophole effectively and efficiently.

So when putting together legislative solutions, let's include public-private partnerships to modernize and computerize the firearms background checks. Already most vendors have sales apps that allow you to run your credit card on their smart phone to buy a product, so adding this technology and distributing it is well within our grasp. We have the know-how -- now we must democratize and distribute it to help keep guns out of the hands of children, criminals, mentally ill persons and people on the terrorist watch list. We've got apps to keep us employed and keep us entertained -- now let's use an app to keep us safe.

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