Journal Times editorial: It's time to toughen gun background checks
Our Perspective

Journal Times editorial: It's time to toughen gun background checks

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Mass shootings have become alarmingly frequent in the United States, but after three in an eight-day period, and two in less than 24 hours, there’s a renewed call for action.

Yes, Democrats have been calling for more gun control in the wake of the recent horrific events in Gilroy, Calif.; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio. But leading Republicans also have expressed support for gun-control measures.

“Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks,” President Donald Trump said Aug. 5 on Twitter. He reiterated that viewpoint on Aug. 9: “I think we can do very meaningful background checks.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that expanding background checks to all gun purchasers would be “front and center” when the Senate comes back into session next month, the New York Times reported Aug. 8.

“There is a lot of support for that,” he said in an interview with a Kentucky radio host. Such legislation had already been gathering support from Republicans.

For the nation’s two most powerful Republicans, this is a definite change in tone. When the Democratic-controlled House passed two bills toughening background checks in February, Trump threatened to veto them and McConnell has prevented them from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.

The first bill would extend existing laws to require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers, the Washington Post reported Aug. 4. The second bill aims to close the “Charleston loophole,” a reference to the 2015 shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. The Charleston gunman was able to purchase the weapons after a three-day federal background check failed to turn up a prior conviction, and this proposal would extend that window for completing a background check to at least 10 business days.

It would seem, in 2019, that real-time data could be collected faster than 10 business days. But that’s a more technical matter that can wait, we feel.

While stopping short of backing a background check measure or committing to bring it to a vote, McConnell said Aug. 8: “I think the urgency of this is not lost on any of us, because we’ve seen too many of these horrendous acts.”

You are right, Mr. Majority Leader. We have seen too many of these horrendous acts. That is why you should support a background-check measure and commit to bringing it to a vote. Not that having political cover should make a difference in such life-and-death matters, but both House background-check bills passed with bipartisan support, meaning your caucus would have political cover.

Sixty-one percent of Americans support stricter gun laws, according to an October 2018 Gallup poll.

A Quinnipiac University poll, published in May, found that 94 percent of American voters support background checks for all gun buyers. If you think Quinnipiac arrived at that number by not polling gun owners, you’re wrong: Ninety percent of gun owners polled support universal background checks.

When we talk of “common-sense gun control laws,” proposals that have 90 percent support among gun owners and non-owners alike are the definition of common sense.

The Senate should approve the House background-check bills, and President Trump should sign them into law.

Because Americans should be able to go to a local festival, or to a Walmart, or to a downtown tavern without wondering whether someone with a rifle is going to start opening fire without warning or provocation.

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