“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Bumper sticker
“I hear that mantra so much...But the reality of it is, no — guns don’t kill people. People who have no business with guns kill people.” Pastor Thomas Dixon of Charleston, S.C., July 8, 2015.
On Nov. 8, Nevadans will vote on Question 1, the Background Check Initiative. Background checks for gun purchases should be a no-brainer, but there is opposition to this initiative. So, I have a simple question: Why is it so important to the “guns in every hand” crowd that convicted murderers and rapists, known terrorists, dangerously mentally ill people, convicted domestic abusers, and other such people, are able to buy guns whenever and wherever they want?
What’s that you say? You don’t want criminals and other dangerous people to be able to buy guns? Then why are you opposing Question 1? Without a background check, there’s no sure way to know if a purchaser has a criminal background or other restrictions.
I, personally, have every right to buy a gun, but if I had a problem, I could walk into a gun show in Nevada, go to an unlicensed gun seller and buy one. If the seller asked me if I’d been convicted of a crime, I would just say, “No.” In my case, this is true, but the seller would have no way of knowing that. He might just take my word for it and sell me a gun, which happens too often. Undercover stings have shown that even people who brag to sellers that they could never pass a background check are still able to buy guns.
Comprehensive background checks are the law in 18 states. In those states, 46 percent fewer women are shot and killed by domestic partners, 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers are killed with handguns, and 48 percent fewer people commit suicide with guns. In 2013 in Nevada, background checks at licensed gun dealers stopped 1,904 gun sales to prohibited people, including felons. Background checks work. (SafeNevada.org).
Some opponents think Question 1 is part of a plan to grab everyone’s guns. The text of the initiative says: “Requires that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check.” That’s basically it. An unlicensed seller must have a licensed seller run a background check for any gun sales. If this saves even one life, it’s a small inconvenience that should be worth it.
For those who fear that Question 1 will prevent them giving guns to family members, there are built-in exemptions for family members, hunting and target shooting, and other specific situations. If the wording needs to be clarified, then clarify it. That’s no reason to discard the entire initiative.
Question 1 is supported by 86 percent of Nevadans. It’s been endorsed by several organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police, Las Vegas Lodge 1; the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers; and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who said, “As a prosecutor, I know that it is all too easy for criminals who are prohibited from buying guns to get them online where background checks are not required.... Question 1 closes the loophole in the law and would actually protect law-abiding gun owners from selling a gun to a felon or some other person who is prohibited by law from owning it.” Las Vegas Review Journal, April 26, 2016
For those who say criminals won’t follow the law, criminals don’t follow laws; that’s what makes them criminals. With that reasoning, all laws are foolish and should be repealed. Is that really a good idea?
Republicans have been crying “Doom!” ever since President Obama was elected. The NRA has been warning that any day now the government is going to come and take your guns. In case you haven’t noticed, that hasn’t happened.
The same warnings are being broadcast now about Hillary Clinton. “She wants to abolish the Second Amendment!” Again, not true. All she and most of us want is to stop irresponsible people from having guns. Is there a good reason irresponsible, criminal, violent people should have free access to guns? If so, do speak up.
Background checks save lives. This is well established fact. Michael Reagan, with whom I seldom agree, said it very well in his July 20 LVN column: “But controlling guns won’t bring down that [death] toll. Controlling the humans who pull their triggers will.”
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.