Disarming the dangerous

illustration by Benjamin Ricker.
illustration by Benjamin Ricker.

Recently, Sen. John McCain told NBC’s Meet the Press that legislation to increase background checks for gun purchases will get support across party lines.

Members on both sides of the aisle advocate the legislation, which aims to close loopholes in the current system. During the interview, McCain said, “Obviously, we want to do everything we can to prevent guns from falling into the hands of people who are mentally unbalanced, or criminals.”

The move for increased background checks is reflected in a recent Quinnipiac University poll, which found that 92 percent of voters are in favor of universal background checks. While McCain supports increased background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands, he has no qualms with assault rifles or high-capacity magazines. He points to the 2011 shooting in Norway as an example of the failure of banning high-capacity weapons, even though Norway has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.

I grudgingly admit he’s got a point: The size or caliber of the weapon shouldn’t be the main issue. Though I’d love to see the destruction of every automatic weapon on the planet (and I do believe that legislation to ban high-capacity weapons will someday be passed), it’s hard to argue against McCain’s logic. The point should be to keep potentially dangerous individuals from getting any weapon.

If we can make the background check system secure enough, the caliber of weapon purchased shouldn’t matter, because the individual purchasing it will be proven to be emotionally and mentally sound and won’t pose a threat to society.

Not everyone sees universal background checks as a benefit to society, though. The National Rifle Association recently announced it will debut a new ad campaign blasting the “consequences” of universal background checks. During the announcement, CEO Wayne LaPierre said, “This so-called universal background check that you’re hearing about all over the media…is aimed at one thing: It’s aimed at registering your guns…and when another tragic opportunity presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns.”

Call me dense, but I fail to see the negative consequences. How in the hell is the mandated registry of guns a bad thing in any shape or form? Registering a gun creates accountability. If you own a gun, don’t go commit a crime or kill anyone and there won’t be an issue. Be responsible and no one will come and take your beloved high-powered rifle.

That the NRA opposes implementing a system that ensures gun-owner accountability raises many questions. Perhaps it realizes how much of its membership depends on criminals and the mentally/emotionally unstable being able to buy guns.

I’d love to remind LaPierre of Gerald Hume’s story: Hume, a known schizophrenic with a history of violent behavior, was living under the care of his 77 year-old mother, Janet, in Oklahoma City. After a few days of not hearing from Janet and knowing Hume’s condition and history, relatives contacted the police and requested they pay Janet a visit.

On the first two visits, everything seemed fine. Prior to the police’s third visit, a family friend informed police that Hume had gotten hold of a handgun and three rifles. When they arrived, police were kept at bay for 11 hours while Hume barricaded himself in the house. Hume then attempted to fire on police before he was subdued. Officers subsequently found Janet’s body in a bedroom—Hume admitted to shooting her in the chest.

How did someone who heard voices and required treatment and previous mental-health interventions with the Oklahoma City Police Department procure a stock of weapons? He purchased them himself—from a nearby WalMart and a local gun shop. He passed background checks at both locations.

With LaPierre blasting the “negative consequences” of improved and universal background checks, it’s clear that individuals like him are as big a threat to society as the Gerald Humes of the world. The former enables the latter.


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