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Tighter gun control laws
The American public is still reeling from the devastating mass shooting that took place on May 24th in Uvalde, Texas.
The 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary School and killed 19 students and 2 teachers. The tragedy closely followed the Buffalo shooting, where a white supremacist killed 10 black people in a supermarket fueled by racist ideologies and conspiracy theories.
These recent events resulted in Democratic politicians calling for tighter gun control laws to prevent such acts in the future. However, given the Congressional gridlock, it is unlikely that any federal gun control law will be passed. Although the Senate is discussing H.R. 8, a bill aimed at expanding background checks, Democrats do not have the 60 votes to pass the law.
HR 8 Bill
H.R. 8 is the latest attempt by Democratic lawmakers to tighten gun control regulations in the country.
The bill passed in the House by a vote of 227 to 203 along party lines. The purpose of the bill is to close the loopholes that people exploit to avoid a background check. As of 2022, the background check requirement only applies to licensed gun dealers but a person can buy a firearm online or at a gun show from an unlicensed party without a background check. These loopholes mean that 1 out of 4 Americans who bought a gun did it without undergoing a background check.
By law, people with certain convictions such as domestic abuse are barred from buying and owning a gun. However, unlicensed parties are not required to confirm criminal convictions and continue to be a source of guns for those who should not be able to possess one.
The bill intends to close the loopholes by making the transfer of firearms between unlicensed individuals, dealers, and manufacturers unlawful. Certain exceptions apply such as transferring a firearm to prevent death or imminent danger, or between family members.
Do background checks work?
Available data confirm that background checks prevent the sale of firearms to individuals who cannot possess guns.
In 2020 the background check system blocked more than 300,000 firearm sales based on the numbers reported by the FBI. Since the inception of the system in 1994 more than 3 million people, who cannot own a gun, failed to buy a gun as licensed gun dealers confirmed their ineligibility. In addition, more than 80% of the guns acquired to carry out an unlawful activity were obtained through an unlicensed dealer.
Thanks to modern technology the majority of background checks can be completed instantly. According to the FBI, the accuracy of the system is over 99%. Expanding the service to cover all gun sales means that more crime can be prevented as people who cannot possess guns will be unable to obtain one.
Who is in opposition?
Certainly not the American public. Polls after polls show that close to 90% of Americans support expanding background checks and closing the loopholes., A group of constitutional lawyers also expressed that background checks are facially constitutional based on the District of Columbia v. Heller (2009) Supreme Court decision.
The most ardent opponents of H.R. 8 and any federal gun control attempts are Republican politicians. On May 25th Senator Marco Rubio falsely claimed that “not a single gun obtained at a gun show or on the internet was used in a mass shooting.” However, the gun used in the Virginia Tech shooting was bought online.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz claimed that restricting guns “doesn’t work, it’s not effective.” He is a fierce opponent of any gun control legislation and since the Uvalde shooting proposed alternative solutions. Cruz suggested that having only one entrance to schools as well as hiring security officers should solve the problem, despite a long history of armed guards being unable to stop shootings.
Tommy Tuberville, Senator from Alabama, refused to identify guns as the source of the problem and cited mental health issues as the cause of mass shootings in America. Similarly, Mo Brooks found fault with kids born out of wedlock and growing up without fathers as the source of the problem.
Why is there an opposition?
Republican politicians vehemently oppose any gun control due to the funding they receive from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and because the message resonates well with their constituents. The Republican voting base overwhelmingly consists of white men living in rural America. According to Pew Research, that demographic group has the highest percentage of people owning at least one firearm.
The NRA also remains one of the stronger lobbying groups in the country lining the pockets of Republican politicians with millions of dollars in exchange for their opposition to gun control. Some estimates claim that the NRA spent over $100 million since the Sandy Hook shooting, with $16.5 million spent in 2020 alone. In 2016, that number was over $50 million as the group supported President Donald Trump’s election campaign and several other Republican candidates.
Most Republican Senators represent deeply conservative states where even mentioning the possibility of gun control can cause an incumbent to lose the next elections. The historical connection, gun culture, and a general distrust of the government permeate these regions and through the elected representatives prevent meaningful gun control legislation from passing.
After every major shooting Republican politicians overwhelmingly reject gun control legislation and offer a myriad of alternatives. These ideas include hiring additional armed security officers, ballistic blankets, returning to God, and arming teachers themselves. There is little evidence that any of these measures offer a viable alternative to gun control measures such as expanding background checks.
Call to Action
Ending gun violence in our polarized society may appear to be an impossible task. Every day, we hear about another mass shooting that takes the lives of innocent people. Congressional gridlock is likely to prevent any meaningful gun control legislation from passing, so we need you to act now more than ever.
Our communities must do more to protect children and adults, young and old, from the senseless violence of those who wish to harm us. We must put pressure on our elected officials to carry out their constitutional responsibilities and protect the public. You can express your support for stricter gun control by calling, tweeting, meeting, and speaking with your representatives.
Participate in your community. It is not sufficient to wait for Congress or the federal government to act. Attend local school board meetings and seek out local representatives who support gun control and want to save lives. Communicate with them, organize, and mobilize, because our true strength lies in numbers.
The Chahal Foundation is deeply committed to providing people with multiple options for assisting in the passage of meaningful gun control legislation. We envision a country in which children are not required to participate in active shooter drills. A country where parents do not have to be concerned about the sound of an alert informing them of an active shooter.
Our children require us now more than ever. We can’t put an armed guard next to each child and lock them in a school with bulletproof glass and metal doors. Entering a school should not feel like going through airport security.
Get involved, the time is now click here to call or tweet your Senator today!