One of the most outrageous lies the National Rifle Association and its allies in the media and on the blogosphere constantly promulgate is that universal background checks of gun buyers won’t do any good.
They claim that the checks at gun shows and on the Internet would not prevent criminals from getting guns, since they most often get them through underground sales or by enlisting a friend to buy a weapon for them.
Those claims fly in the face of the undisputed fact that the current background checks, limited as they are, have kept guns from being sold to more than a million convicted felons, fugitives from justice, or people committed to mental health institutions during the past 15 years of the 18 that the so-called Brady law has been in effect.
It was less than a year ago — before the Aurora movie house killings or the tragedy at Newtown — that a delegation of top law enforcement officers from throughout Wisconsin visited our editorial board to urge us to back efforts to eliminate the loopholes in the law.
I remember Doug Pettit, the police chief in the village of Oregon and chair of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association’s legislative committee, pointing out it makes no sense to limit the checks just to federally licensed dealers when they represent less than half of the gun sales in the country.
President of the police chiefs’ organization back then, Berlin Chief Dennis Plantz, pointed out that national polls already showed that 91 percent of the public supports background checks. The chiefs figured that with support like that closing the loopholes in the Brady law ought to be a slam dunk.
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But, as has been the case now for decades, the gun lobby and its corporate sponsors that benefit from gun sales have been able to beat back any attempts at common-sense gun control, even something as benign as checking whether a person is stable enough to own a gun. And despite the public support, which polls say is still more than 90 percent in favor, weak-kneed members of Congress succumb to the bullying gun lobby to kill any and every attempt to enact some reasonable safeguards that just might prevent another tragedy.
Just this Thursday, the New York Times recounted several examples of how, because of the limits of the Brady law, a person was able to purchase a gun to commit a heinous crime. That included the infamous “spa shooting” in Milwaukee last October, when an abusive husband, who was thwarted in an attempt to buy a gun from a licensed dealer, obtained one instead from private seller via the Internet for $500 and proceeded to kill his beautician wife and two of her colleagues and wounded four others before killing himself.
But preventing government from checking on that Internet sale continues to be anathema to the NRA.
Wayne La Pierre, the NRA’s chief spokesman, claims that the way to get the bad guys is to give the good guys guns.
But how, pray tell, do we tell who are the good guys if we can’t even check their backgrounds?