Background Checks for Gun Purchases

Extremists misinterpret the constitution and insist that even background checks prior to gun purchases violate individuals’ second amendment right to bear arms. That right, us non-extremists know, is not absolute, just as we know that our first amendment right to freedom of speech comes with limits.

Struggling to justify their insistence that background checks not be permitted, they sometimes suggest that such checks don’t make a difference.

They’re wrong.

gunsConsider this, from a New Yorker magazine article:

In 2007, Missouri eliminated a decades-old system under which every handgun buyer had to obtain a permit and undergo a background check. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that the firearm-homicide rate increased by thirty-four per cent in the first year after the repeal and remained significantly higher than it had been, while the rate of homicides committed with other weapons did not change. Studies of this type don’t prove direct cause and effect, but this one is powerfully suggestive. The researchers controlled for other potential explanations, including changes in policing levels and incarceration rates, and the sharp increase was unique to the region and out of keeping with crime trends nationally. The firearm-suicide rate rose, too. Meanwhile, according to a study published last year in The American Journal of Public Health, a 1995 Connecticut law that did more or less the opposite—enacting the kind of permit system that Missouri dropped—was associated with a forty-per-cent reduction in firearm-homicide rates.

Background checks DO make a difference, and that’s why every state should require background checks for EVERY gun purchase – and that includes guns sold at gun shows, which have been scooting around background check laws in many states for years.

It’s a win-win solution: we keep guns out of the hands of people we really, really don’t want to have them and individuals’ right to own handguns is respected after appropriate investigation. It’s a fair, albeit only partial solution to the terrible problem of people who shouldn’t have access to guns doing terrible things with them.

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