Background checks first step in preventing crimes

By Cathie Whittenburg, Special to the BDN
Posted April 12, 2009, at 6:45 p.m.

Fact: Most guns will never be used to either commit a crime or to prevent a crime.

Fact: Most gun owners are responsible, law abiding citizens who want to keep guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers and other prohibited persons.

Fact: Since the FBI instant background check was instituted in 1994 more than 1.6 million prohibited persons were stopped from buying guns. A felony conviction, a domestic violence conviction or a current restraining order were the most common reasons for these rejections.

Fact: Every year in the United States 30,000 people die from firearms; 70,000 people are shot and injured, leaving physical and emotional scars that last for years; more than 300,000 people are victims of armed robbery or aggravated assault with a firearm; countless others are threatened and intimidated with guns, sometimes by so-called loved ones.

Fact: Last year’s Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller stated “like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever, in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The decision made it clear that the right to own a gun exists side by side with the right to regulate the purchase, possession and carrying of guns.

Fact: Maine allows for the private sale of firearms with no background check run, no records kept and no questions asked.

Recently, public hearings were held in Augusta on bills that would require all gun sales, including private gun sales at guns shows and through ads in Uncle Henry’s, be subject to an FBI instant background check. Because a private individual cannot access the FBI background check system, sales would be processed by a li-censed gun dealer who would run the background check. Other states have processed private gun sales this way for years. It is a simple notion and one that would prevent felons and domestic abusers from having such easy, unquestioned access to firearms.

These bills would not ban the private sale of firearms. They would not prevent anyone from selling their guns. They would not prevent anyone from buying a gun (unless that person was already prohibited from doing so). They would certainly not take away anyone’s gun. Yet person after person who spoke in opposition to these bills talked about how this was just a trick to ban guns, to close down gun shows, to prevent people from selling their guns, and would lead to the government at their door looking to confiscate their firearms.

Who keeps telling this lie that gun control equals gun ban and confiscation and why are people so willing to believe it?

There was also testimony about “just enforcing the laws that are already on the books.” Under current Maine law it is not illegal for a private individual to sell a gun to a convicted felon. It is illegal for the felon to buy the gun, so by the time you are enforcing the law the felon is already armed. Wouldn’t it be better to prevent the felon from getting the gun to begin with?

We should be working to prevent crimes. Let’s prevent the next Columbine shooters from getting guns through a private sale at a gun show. Let’s prevent the next domestic abuser from buying a gun through a private sale in Uncle Henry’s.

Enough with the-sky-is-falling-they-are-coming-to-get-your-guns paranoid rhetoric. It is time for a reasonable, rational, intelligent discussion on how best to keep dangerous guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and how to prevent crime.

Cathie Whittenburg of Westbrook is director of the New England Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/04/12/opinion/background-checks-first-step-in-preventing-crimes/ printed on July 30, 2014