This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Is there a rational person among us who wants convicted felons, terrorists, purveyors of domestic violence and individuals who have serious mental health issues to have direct and easy access to firearms? The answer in any civilized society must be an unhesitating "No."
And, in such a civilized society, it should be a simple matter to enact legislation that would produce such results in the name of sane and rational public safety.
Do we have such legislation in the United States? No. Why not? The simple answer is that the National Rifle Association and its followers oppose these measures often through their omnipresent "slippery slope" argument: If we enact any restrictive legislation, where will it all stop a Nazi-like confiscation of all weapons and ultimate subjugation of the populace?
The more complex answer is that the NRA and many of its members have bamboozled an entire generation of legislators into believing that support for any restriction on the availability of firearms is a third-rail issue: Touch it and your re-election possibilities are history. But, acceptance of this political "wisdom" shows a serious lack of responsible leadership and a distressing disregard of public safety.
Members of Congress who are serious about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals should be lining up to co-sponsor and vote for a bill in the Congress that addresses the problem in a straightforward way. The Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 would have the eminently sensible effect of materially reducing the likelihood that another Jared Loughner (Tucson), Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), Nidal Malik Hasan (Fort Hood) or Sulejman Talovic (Trolley Square) would be able to obtain weapons that produce unthinkable tragedies.
The proposed legislation would close the "gun show loophole," which currently provides a broad avenue for felons, terrorists, the mentally ill and domestic abusers to purchase the most lethal of weaponry without any background checks. Although a purchaser from a federally licensed dealer must undergo a background check, "occasional" private gun sellers may sell firearms of frightening lethality at local gun shows to willing buyers of all stripes without any background checks. This should be unacceptable to a society concerned about safety.
The Fix Gun Checks Act would not only close the gun show loophole and require background checks for all purchasers, it would force states to provide information to the national background check database on ineligible individuals, such as the mentally ill and those subject to stalking orders and domestic-violence crimes.
There is such a national database, but states have had no incentive to submit data on ineligible purchasers. As a result, this database is nearly empty. The new legislation would remedy this problem so that, for example, a person subject to a domestic violence protective order in Utah could not waltz into Arizona and purchase a gun that could not be lawfully obtained in Utah.
Hundreds of municipal mayors across the country, through Mayors Against Illegal Guns, have signed on to support this common sense, no-brainer legislation, which has a real potential to reduce the instruments of violence in our society. Yet, the constant drumbeat of the NRA and its sympathizers is that gun control measures are pointless because criminals and others bent on anti-social behavior will always find a way to obtain lethal firearms, no matter how many legal barriers are erected. To the contrary, the well-known cases cited above, and many more unheralded ones, provide convincing evidence that with reasonable measures we can make progress in providing a safer society for us and our families.
The Fix Gun Checks Act is the kind of reasonable public safety legislation for which there is no rational opposing argument. Will it make us all 100 percent safe? Of course not. Will it reduce the chances that another Trolley Square tragedy will happen? Absolutely. Is it common sense legislation that the Utah congressional delegation should support? Absolutely.
Gary G. Sackett is a member of the board of directors of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.