Let's get this out of the way. I am a gun owner and a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment. What I do not support is extending the rights embedded in the Second Amendment to terrorists, criminals and kids.
In the wake of another horrific campus shooting at Northern Illinois University where 21 students were shot, we're reminded AGAIN of how national gun laws need to be strengthened. Sadly gun laws have only been weakened since the massacres at Columbine and Virginia Tech.. While these high profile mass shootings attract headlines 83 Americans die EACH AND EVERY day from gun violence.
How does this happen? Why is it allowed to continue? Current federal law allows an unlimited number of easily concealable handguns and military-style weapons to be sold privately in 32 states without a criminal background check or an ID. The second answer is even easier, it's the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the gun industry.
Consider that one must present identification to cash a check at the grocery store or to purchase alcohol or cigarettes. But if you want a Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle (capable of penetrating steel and taking out an armored vehicle from more than a mile) you only need to show up at one of 5,000 legal gun shows and fork over the cash -- no ID or background check required! It is well documented that Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and IRA terrorists exploited this loophole in US gun laws to purchase military-style weapons from "private sellers" at gun shows.
Who is at fault? The president and Congress allow the NRA to dictate national gun policy. The result is an average of 30,000 Americans die from guns annually, including 5 kids every day, in exchange for the tens of million of dollars in cash contributions that grease the skids of their re-election campaigns.
According to Federal Elections Commission Reports the NRA has spent more than $22 million on Congressional candidates in order to support their extreme agenda during the last four election cycles. In 2004, the NRA spent nearly $4 million to re-elect George W. Bush.
In a recent national radio debate with me, an NRA spokesperson confirmed that they are opposed to uniform criminal background checks for fear they will "shut down gun shows." The NRA believes that even people on the suspected terrorist watch list should not be barred from purchasing guns because, are you ready for this, "we do not know how people are put on the list" and "many times people are victims of mistaken identity."
When surveyed, 85% of Americans said they want mandatory background checks and a five-day waiting period before purchasing a handgun, but the NRA has continually blocked such common sense legislation. Their policies handcuff national law enforcement's ability to effectively regulate private gun sales, gun shows, and even the sharing of crime-gun trace data within the law enforcement community.
The NRA's tools are fear and paranoia, but their goal is money and power. By putting guns into the hands of terrorists, criminals and the mentally ill they create a society where defense by guns becomes mandatory while the bank accounts of their leaders and lobbyists are enriched and Congressional coffers are replenished. This is not, however, where the money trail ends. It ends with gun manufacturers whose investments in the NRA pay dividends beyond their wildest dreams. Immunity from lawsuits and freedom from Consumer Protection Regulations and manufacturing standards are just a few of the benefits delivered by the NRA and provided by a complicit President and Congress. The NRA's political agenda is to put a gun in every pocket regardless of the toll of human life.
Massachusetts and 17 other states have enacted gun violence prevention legislation: in particular background checks for all gun sales. Only Hawaii has a firearm fatality rate lower than Massachusetts. Hawaii is fortunate; bordered by water, it is less accessible for gun traffickers than Massachusetts, where over 60% of guns traced to crime come from out of state. Massachusetts is bordered by Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, 3 of the top 4 crime-gun source states for Massachusetts, where guns are easily purchased by prohibited buyers without a background check or ID.
Most law abiding citizens like myself buy guns from federally licensed dealers who are required to perform background checks. Incredibly federal law allows criminals and terrorists who can't pass background checks to easily buy guns from private individuals in 32 states without detection. The bloodshed in our communities and schools (4 campus shootings this week alone!) is largely preventable. It is time for reasonable people -- the 85% of Americans who agree with me -- to insist that Congress enact sensible and consistent federal laws that require criminal background checks for ALL gun sales in the US.