It’s time for Kansas to get more sensible about preventing gun violence.
For years now, our state Legislature’s response to this crisis largely has been limited to enabling and encouraging the carrying of guns in more and more places. These policies are based on the questionable theory that a community is safer when strangers of unknown maturity, temperament and judgment are armed and ready to open fire if they perceive a threat.
Rather than continuing to concentrate almost solely on giving people the opportunity to shoot back, we believe it’s time to start adopting policies that better prevent people from getting shot at in the first place.
One option for doing that is the extension of background checks on gun sales. Because this common sense measure has overwhelming public support, and because its effectiveness is proven, the Northeast Kansas Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence worked successfully to get a background checks bill introduced in this year’s legislative session.
These quick background checks ensure that persons trying to buy guns are legally permitted to do so. Among prohibited buyers are convicted felons, domestic abusers, individuals who have renounced their U.S. citizenship and those with serious mental illness. No one should want to make it easy for such people to buy firearms.
The current background checks system in Kansas only covers sales by licensed gun dealers. Private transactions are exempt, and that obviously creates a dangerous gaping hole in the process.
Our measure would require that background checks be expanded to include all private sales at gun shows and over the Internet. For now, we do not advocate trying to regulate other private sales between individuals.
Critics say expanded checks won’t help, that prohibited buyers will get guns anyway. While no gun law will stop all bad guys from getting weapons, additional checks definitely will help.
More than 1 million gun transactions have been stopped since the current background checks system took effect 20 years ago. Most thwarted buyers are felons. If criminals are so smart and always able to get guns on the street, why do so many try and fail to buy at stores where they should know they’ll be checked?
Opponents also sometimes object to private buyers having to pay for a background check. A fee of $10 or less on gun transactions commonly involving hundreds of dollars is a small price for something that can help prevent needless tragedies.
Polls have found that up to 90 percent of Americans want more background checks, and that even a sizable majority of NRA members support them.
Something that works so well and has such strong public support deserves serious consideration. We realize this pro-gun Legislature easily could spike the background checks bill, but how in good conscience can it dismiss something so sensible and popular?
We hope legislators do not believe the false fantasy that any form of gun “control” is the first step toward an outright firearms ban. The Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress and the American public will keep any such wild scenario from ever playing out. Our chapter, by the way, agrees that law- abiding, stable citizens should be able to own guns.
Supporting gun ownership should not equate to opposing sensible laws that make us safer.
Please let your legislators know that you are among the overwhelming majority that wants to make Kansas safer by making more gun sales subject to background checks.
Loren Stanton is the president of the Northeast Kansas Chapter, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
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