What is holding up universal background checks?

Illustration of a small child attempting to purchase a firearm with passive store attendant
Soma Chu/File

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This week, The Hill posted an article titled “88 percent in new poll support background checks on all gun sales.” Yes, that’s right: 88% of Americans — including Democrats, Republicans, independents and everyone in between — are for universal background checks for firearm sales.

As federal law now stands, background checks are not required for sales at gun shows and private transactions. More than two years ago, a bill passed in Congress, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would have made background checks before all gun sales compulsory. However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell keeps stonewalling efforts to have the bill passed in the Senate.

The biggest roadblock to passing this bill, however, has been Senator Mitch McConnell, according to a CBS News article published in 2019. “The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have brought a new wave of attention to a gun control bill that was passed by the house more than five months ago — and has been stalled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ever since,” disclosed journalist Jason Silverstein in the aforementioned CBS News article, titled “The House passed stronger background checks in February. McConnell won’t call a Senate vote.”

This is, plainly put, disgusting behavior by McConnell. If the conservatively slanted The Hill is even reporting that the majority of Americans, Democrat and Republican alike, want universal background checks, then the Kentuckian senator should honor the will of the people. The recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas only further drives home the point: There need to be universal background checks, period.

Even general gun show regulations require that “anyone who wishes to purchase a firearm at a gun show (in the state of California) must pass a federal background check and wait the mandatory 10-day waiting period.”

Now it’s time that the rest of the United States follows suit. I’m not stating this as a Democrat; I’m stating this as a non-MAGA Republican: Universal background checks are a good thing. And if we can even save a few lives — those of adults, teenagers and children — by passing the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, then it will have all been worthwhile.

Many gun control critics, such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, staunchly suggest that such measures as background checks don’t put a dent in gun-related deaths, oftentimes cherry-picking statistics about more liberal states such as Illinois, that have tougher gun laws. “I hate to say this, but there are more people who are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in Texas,” Abbott said last week. But, as Politifact has reported, 60% of guns used in Chicago come from neighboring Republican states such as Indiana.

What genuinely baffles and disturbs me about the GOP’s failure to act on preventing these massacres is not so much that they won’t agree with Democrats on everything, but they won’t compromise on anything. They don’t even take an inch. And when one Republican musters enough courage to go against the grain and back sensible and necessary legislation, they are immediately vilified and ostracized. As New York Rep. Chris Jacobs, who is not seeking reelection, said last week, “If you stray from a party position, you are annihilated. For the Republicans, it became pretty apparent to me over the last week that that issue is gun control — any gun control.” Ultimately, Jacobs announced that he would vote for a federal assault weapons ban, if presented the opportunity.

Despite these extremely politically divisive times in which we are living, there are some common-sense, middle-ground legislative actions that can be taken — such as universal background checks — that can potentially save many lives, and make tragedies in the scope of Uvalde and Buffalo much more rare.

British statesman Edmund Burke once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And in the matter of gun control, I would like to add that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people everywhere to do nothing. It should be country over party, not party over country.

We can learn a valuable lesson from Rep. Jacobs, who broke the mold against his own party and stood up for what he knew to be right.

Without immediate action we will continue to face mass violence, such the tragic shooting that devastated the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This incident occurred two days ago, resulting in the deaths of three people, and wounding of 11 others. The wounded ranged from ages 17 to 69. One gunman who was believed to be shot and wounded escaped; another suspected gunman is likely among the three dead. The other two deceased individuals are believed to be totally innocent and in the wrong place at the wrong time. This kind of mayhem has become, unfortunately, commonplace in the United States.

Sen. McConnell, the time is now for universal background checks. We the people — red, blue and everything in between — are calling for them. The vast majority has spoken, now all eyes are on you and your handling of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act.

Although we are living in one of the most radically divisive times in our nation’s history, I still believe we can find common ground on certain issues. We want safety for our families, our relatives, ourselves and our fellow Americans. What we need now is everyone to become more vocal to our representatives about universal background checks. We need to write letters to the editor to our local newspapers; we need to make YouTube videos. If we complain civilly but loudly enough, the politicians who are impeding the passage of important legislation will finally listen to us.

 

Jack Bristow is the author of many crime-fiction stories and nonfiction articles. His writing can be read in The Orange County Register, The Times of San Diego, Mystery Weekly Magazine, HuffPost and Saturday Evening Post.