Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate

Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. (Submission Guidelines)

Public safety as a right: Require background checks on all gun sales

REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Since the passing of the Brady Bill (in 1993) requiring background checks on all gun sales from federally licensed dealers, approximately 3 million ineligible persons have been prevented from buying guns legally. That’s good; it proves that background checks work to protect innocent citizens from senseless violence and death.

Unfortunately, because of what now seem like glaring loopholes in the law, there have also been an undetermined number of sales to people who, for one reason or another, didn’t want anyone looking into their backgrounds. The number is undetermined because by using one of these loopholes there is no record of the sale.

Why not undergo a check?

So, the first thing that comes to mind is: Why would any honest and responsible gun buyer choose this option? If you are a legitimate gun buyer what do you have to lose by undergoing a check?

The answer I’ve heard from those on the other side of this issue goes something like: If there’s a registry they (the imaginary enemy) can come and take our guns away at any time, leaving us legitimate gun owners vulnerable to some totalitarian government that the Second Amendment was created to protect us from.

Sound familiar?


First of all, the Second Amendment was created so the government could quickly stand up a (well regulated) militia to defend itself from an attack.

Firearms have radically changed

Also, when the Second Amendment was written a muzzle loader of the era took about a minute to load and fire one bullet. Now, an AR-15 can fire 45 bullets in the same amount of time, and with minor alterations, many more than that. And also, in my view, our Constitution was meant to evolve. That’s why there are amendments.

Jon Frasz
Jon Frasz
I support closing all loopholes that would allow anyone to purchase any type of firearm without a comprehensive criminal (or mental health) background check. No honest buyer has any reason to object to a short wait to protect the public safety.

Also, as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated, “No right is unlimited.” And “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding … laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” In other words: States can make laws for public safety, without violating anyone’s rights.

Certainly the lives of our loved ones, as proclaimed 11 years before the writing of the Constitution, in our Declaration of Independence, as the “unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” must be balanced with the “right to bear arms.”

We the people must demand it.

I’ve hunted and target shot for half my life. I am not arbitrarily opposed to guns for sport or self-defense. I believe with better regulation, everyone wins. Gun Laws are pro-life!

Jon Frasz is from Northfield, Minnesota.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, see our Submission Guidelines.)

Comments (42)

  1. Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/17/2019 - 09:20 am.

    Where to start?

    First, “Since the passing of the Brady Bill (in 1993) requiring background checks on all gun sales from federally licensed dealers, approximately 3 million ineligible persons have been prevented from buying guns legally. That’s good; it proves that background checks work to protect innocent citizens from senseless violence and death.”

    This is a non sequitur in that it supposes being ineligible automatically means a person will commit homicide. The fact that they were denied during a legal purchase suggests many did not realize they had been stripped of their 2nd Amend rights; in other words, it is not the act of a criminal intent on murder. Criminals buy their weapons on the black market, not Cabella’s.

    Next, “the Second Amendment was created so the government could quickly stand up a (well regulated) militia to defend itself from an attack.” The 2nd is just as importantly created so the people could quickly stand up to defend themselves against a rogue government.

    Then there is the “Firearms have radically changed” canard. When the 2nd Amendment was written, it included firearms which were state of the art at the time. Remembering that it is meant to provide people the means to defend themselves against a rogue government, the founders wished us to be as well armed as possible.

    Finally, our Constitution was not necessarily meant to evolve, but the founders did include a means to make changes. A Constitutional convention, followed by ratification by 2/3 of the states is that means; I wish the author well in getting that done.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/17/2019 - 01:32 pm.

      “Then there is the “Firearms have radically changed” canard. When the 2nd Amendment was written, it included firearms which were state of the art at the time. Remembering that it is meant to provide people the means to defend themselves against a rogue government, the founders wished us to be as well armed as possible.”

      It sounds like you’re talking about an “evolving” Constitution, and making a lot of non-textual assumptions about what the Founders intended. The Second Amendment talks about “the security of a free State,” but says nothing about “rogue governments.” Guaranteeing a “Republican Form of Government” is delegated to the United States.

      BTW, looking up “canard” in the dictionary, I see that it means “an unfounded rumor or story.” Are you saying firearms have not radically changed since the Constitution was ratified?

      • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/17/2019 - 02:23 pm.

        No sir, the canard is that the founders had sling-shots in mind when they wrote the 2nd Amendment, not the state of the art firearms available at the time.

        Are you suggesting that rogue governments are not a threat to the security of a free State? That’s funny, because the folks starving in Venezuela, which was an industrial, 1st world country until recently, would beg to differ.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/17/2019 - 02:53 pm.

          I don’t know that anyone has ever suggested that the Founders meant “sling shots.” Do you have a citation for that?

          I’m pretty sure the Founders did not mean we should all be packing heat to overthrow a democratically-elected government that is making ridiculously bad policies. They may have thought the remedy for that was the exercise of the suffrage.

          • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/17/2019 - 03:23 pm.

            I think a remedial course on US History would benefit this argument greatly.

            Particularly, writings such as these:

            “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”
            – Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Constitution, Draft 1, 1776

            “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”
            – Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787

            The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”
            – Thomas Jefferson, letter to to John Cartwright, 5 June 1824

            “I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.”
            – George Mason, Address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 4, 1788

            The beliefs you suggest could never have motivated the founders, are in fact, the very things that did.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/17/2019 - 03:51 pm.

              Are you saying that we have the right to overthrow a democratically elected US government by force? I think that’s what they call sedition, and last time I checked, it was still a crime.

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/17/2019 - 03:40 pm.

          I never thought of it in these terms; but, if you see the Second Amendment as an insurance policy against the tyranny of a rogue government it is badly failing us in the Trump Presidency. How rogue do we need to get before you endorse “Second Amendment Remedies”? Some how I see left wing rogue as a trigger for you way before right wing rogue.

          Let’s just run with the good old Constitution and impeach the rogues as we get them. Of course, unless the rogue refuses to take part and actively resists the actions of a constitutionally defined impeachment process.

          • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/17/2019 - 06:01 pm.

            Well that’s the question isn’t it? For me, it would be the unilateral, and extra judicial usurpation of our constitutional rights.

            A door to door confiscation of firearms, or forced “buy back”, such as suggested by Beto ORourke would fall into that category for many people I know.

            • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/18/2019 - 08:13 am.

              That’s what I thought:

              For you the Constitution is a 27 word document that begins and ends with the Second Amendment.

              All the rest is frivolous speechifying and you really don’t care if Donald Trump or any future President tramples over it as long as proper homage is paid to your 27 words.

              And that is the definition of NRA patriotism.

        • Submitted by ian wade on 10/17/2019 - 04:00 pm.

          There’s nothing funnier than someone who claims to know what people that have been dead for 200 hundred years REALLY meant.

          • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/17/2019 - 09:42 pm.

            Check out the Federalist Papers. They were written so we wouldn’t have to guess at what the Founders wanted.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/18/2019 - 09:54 am.

              Reading the Federalist Papers, it seems that the Founders – or Hamilton and Madison, at any rate – discussed the right to bear arms only in the context of state-organized militias. If you’re looking to Publius for support of your right to bring a Glock into Cub, you would be well advised to give it up now.

          • Submitted by Greg Smith on 10/17/2019 - 09:49 pm.

            If only those folks had left any writings or papers that outlined their thinking.

            • Submitted by ian wade on 10/19/2019 - 11:15 pm.

              Considering the fact that the founders couldn’t conceive of cotton candy, much less modern weaponry in a country of 300 million that sprung from the simple agrarian society they were a part of, it makes their viewpoint moot.

              • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/22/2019 - 12:53 pm.

                The Louisiana Purchase was completed in 1803, while most of the founders were still alive and kicking. I think they knew exactly how big the country was going to get when they added our right to possess the most state of the art weapons known at the time…same weapons that were used to defeat the British Army.

                • Submitted by ian wade on 10/23/2019 - 01:16 pm.

                  Oh, so they were oracles?
                  Sorry, I didn’t catch the part of the constitution where they specified that we have a right to state of the art weaponry. Perhaps you could point that out?

    • Submitted by Joel Stegner on 10/17/2019 - 01:37 pm.

      Bring out the “only criminals kill argument” – lame. What percentage of those who kill someone else or themselves have a criminal record? Do you know? Also that criminals only buy on the black market, not at a gun store? Actually public gun shows and straw purchases are common sources as well as thefts from people who fail to secure their guns.

      If the child of a gun owner takes an unsecured gun and commits a school shooting or a gun owner sells a weapon to a criminal who uses the gun in a crime, the gun owner should be responsible for restitution. Making an example of a few people would bring at least some gun nuts to their senses about universal background checks.

      • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/17/2019 - 02:18 pm.

        According to the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. According to an NIJ study released in December 1997 (“Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities”), only 2 percent of criminal guns come from gun shows.

        People engaged in the business of selling firearms are required to perform the same background checks at gun shows as they do in their stores. Making straw purchases of firearms is a serious crime in of itself; therefore, only criminals engage in it.

        As to the criminal histories of murders, well the answer is surprising for two reasons.

        “Mallory O’Brien, of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission, tracks those numbers for the city of Milwaukee.

        “…93 percent of our [murder] suspects have an arrest history,” O’Brien said.”

        Higher than I would have guessed, but that’s not all.

        “(About) 94 percent of our victims have an arrest history…”

        “O’Brien said the same percentage is true for non-fatal shooting incidents. There’s been an increase in those numbers as well.”

        If you’d like to suggest that Milwaukee is somehow an outlier, I’d be happy to entertain your citations.

        • Submitted by ian wade on 10/17/2019 - 04:02 pm.

          You’re citing a 22 year old study?

        • Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 10/17/2019 - 09:30 pm.

          Connor…..come on …..that 2% of criminal weapons is only those who were actually identified in that short time span. You know very well that many weapons are bought out of trunks in the parking lots of your gun “shows”. The more that you talk, the more stretching you do…kind of like tweety bird.

          • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/18/2019 - 11:33 am.

            “You know very well that many weapons are bought out of trunks in the parking lots of your gun “shows”.”

            I know that how, exactly? Because you say so? lol, no.

            I’ve been to a few gun shows. There are always Sheriff’s deputies in plain sight, and ATF agents in the crowd undercover; it’s common knowledge. The idea someone is dispensing weapons “out of the trunk” is ludicrous; only someone woefully (or more likely, willfully) ignorant of the reality of the subject would believe such a thing.

            • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/21/2019 - 12:06 pm.

              And this is documented and statistically proven? http://www.startribune.com/checking-in-on-online-gun-sales/560717642/
              We know fake Star and Tribune reporting better to get your news from some right wing conspiracy group, across the bar, perhaps an online fake patriot site, or the propaganda machine at the NRA, they are all far more credible and reliable, NOT!

              • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/22/2019 - 10:47 am.

                Your link evidently discusses online sales; we are discussing gun show sales. Different deal.

                In either case, private transfers through legitimate sources be they gun shows or online are not the problem. The overwhelming majority of firearms used in crimes were purchased legally, then stolen. A smaller number were obtained illegally through straw buyers.

                Law abiding people are not opposed to background checks in and of themselves, but the goal is firearm registration, and we all know it. That is unacceptable to free people.

                • Submitted by ian wade on 10/22/2019 - 02:01 pm.

                  Well, I’ve owned weapons for forty years and am a “free person” and I don’t believe it’s a first step to registration. Even if it was, why should I care?

                • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/22/2019 - 04:35 pm.

                  Yep, we shouldn’t have to register our cars, our home, our properties, IRS should not have access to our 401 K mutual fund data, bank data, credit card data, Why do we need to register our boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles, or hair stylists, why do dentists and doctors need to register, after all that really has to encroach on their/our/my freedom. Not sure why companies have to register either, Ironically none of those things mentioned have the ability to kill you in a femto second, but that gun, done deal. No public knowledge or registration required for killing machines. Point is clear, gun heads do not appear to be on the playing field of rationale, civilized, thinking people.

                  • Submitted by Gerry Anderson on 10/27/2019 - 10:54 am.

                    The first things you mention are all about collecting taxes and money. That’s why we register cars and other vehicles. A way to tax you more. You already paid taxes on the dollars you used to buy it.

    • Submitted by David Lundeen on 10/21/2019 - 08:40 pm.

      The second amendment was also created as a violent means to enforce slavery.

      • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/22/2019 - 11:04 am.

        Yes, I’ve seen this trope floating around various lefty media. Unfortunately, history doesn’t support it.

        The Constitution was ratified in 1788. The Second Amendment was not written until 1789.

        If the purpose of the Amendment was of so central an importance to slave holding states, why did they not demand it be written into the original body of the Constitution before they ratified it? They certainly had the power to do so.

        I suggest you read the writings of the founders, such as Jefferson: “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787”

        and Madison:
        “Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788”

        In other words, listen to the people who actually wrote and adopted the amendments.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/22/2019 - 12:33 pm.

          When we read the words of Jefferson and Madison on “liberty,” we should remember that they were both slaveholders.

          PS Jefferson did not draft the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, as he was Minister to France at the time. His strongest letters on liberty relate to his support for the anti-monarchist rebels in France.

  2. Submitted by Andy Briebart on 10/17/2019 - 09:42 am.

    Think any of the shooting in St Paul over the last month or so would have been prevented by a Universal Background Check?

    • Submitted by Alan Straka on 10/17/2019 - 12:03 pm.

      Surely some of those shootings were committed with firearms purchased without a background check by ineligible individuals. Those, at least, would have been prevented. Considering the number of firearms out there now, it will be a very long time before background checks will make an appreciable reduction in shootings but you have to start somewhere. Background checks are reasonable and a lot more palatable than some of the other proposals out there.

      • Submitted by Andy Briebart on 10/17/2019 - 01:43 pm.

        so you are telling me gang members will be getting background checks on their guns? Really?

        • Submitted by ian wade on 10/17/2019 - 04:03 pm.

          So you’re telling me that drunk drivers will stop killing people people because of laws? Really?

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/21/2019 - 10:17 am.

          You know Andy, their are countries on planet earth (democratic and English speaking, as well as non-English speaking) that are smart and civilized enough to successfully implement gun control. Success being defined as reduction in deaths from guns meaning an overall safer population at large. .

  3. Submitted by Christian King on 10/17/2019 - 02:54 pm.

    This again.

    Read the 2A in it’s entirety. It says “well regulated.” That implies that regulation is allowed by the states.

    Read the history of why the 2A was included. Southern states used militias to round up runaway slaves. They wanted to keep the right to do so.

    Read the history of the interpretation of the 2A by the SCOTUS. Until the revisionist Scalia court, the 2A had ALWAYS been interpreted as applying to states’ rights, not to individuals’. The NRA started the “canard” that it applies to individuals.

    Now read the statistics of how many Americans, men, women, children, even armed police officers, are killed or injured (at a massive financial cost) in America annually and ask yourself if maybe, just maybe, registering all gun purchases might just be a step toward saving some people.

    Finally, understand the might of the U.S. military would wipe out any and all militias standing in its way if someone like Trump were to try to become a dictator. The belief that no armed population has ever lost to a dictator is false. Just look at Syria.

    • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/17/2019 - 03:37 pm.

      “Just look at Syria.”

      Lol. Yeah, Assad has a tenuous hold on about 1/2 of his country, with the assistance of Russia…he really showed those rascals.

      • Submitted by Christian King on 10/17/2019 - 11:35 pm.

        Golly neds! Why, you sure showed me! Of the five points I made, you kind of/sort of made an attempt at discrediting one. Good job!

        Except that Syria HAS fallen to Assad. Sure, it took years and the help of Russia, but he rules Syria now, and despite American arms and aide. The rebels were armed to the teeth, but superior firepower won out. And if the U.S. government were to turn on its citizens, a bunch of dudes with AR-15’s would NOT turn the tide.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/21/2019 - 09:18 am.

    The idea that Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to buy and own guns is persistent myth. The idea that the Second Amendment promotes individual gun ownership as some kind of “fail-safe” against tyranny is outright delusional. Eventually these myths will be recognized as such and the incoherent arguments supporting them will collapse. In the meantime it does little good to argue the point beyond pointing out the facts that:

    A) The Second Amendment says absolutely nothing about personal self defense, guns or firearms, or rebellion against the US government. It says States can have Military Militias and arm them for warfare. If you want to claim this means YOU have a right to buy an assault rifle, you have to explain why you DON’T have a right to buy a box of hand grenades, or rocket launchers, or machine guns? You have to explain why we have gun shops instead of arms dealers?

    B) The constitution is about establishing laws that protect our liberty, not arming everyone so they settle disputes with gun battles. The US Constitution is our guarantee, not your AR-15. The founders weren’t idiots, obviously if the government were to collapse to the point where everyone needed a gun, a Second Amendment granting that right would be irrelevant. And by the way, the US Constitution defines armed rebellion as treason, and you build treason into a Constitution as a “fail safe” for democracy.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/21/2019 - 09:28 am.

    I have to say that we have to stop pretending that the least we can do is always the best or them most we can do.

    Background checks aren’t a “bad” idea, and they’re certainly not unconstitutional, but the truth is they would a negligible effect on gun violence.

    Criminals don’t obtain their guns from any who would run a background check whether it’s “required” or not. And most of the other people, husbands, mass shooters, etc. would pass background checks because they don’t have criminal backgrounds. Mental health screening of any kind is a fantasy.

    I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, but it’s a safety net with a lot of big holes in it. We should be talking about banning sales and keeping permanent registries. The US Constitution doesn’t actually limit our responses and policies so we need to stop acting “as-if” is it does.

  6. Submitted by Gerry Anderson on 10/27/2019 - 11:11 am.

    Let’s add opioids (kills and injured far more), cell phones or at least make them not work in a moving vehicle, alcohol, among other things that cause people to get killed or injured by other people.

    The comment by Alan “Surely some of those shootings were committed with firearms purchased without a background check by ineligible individuals. Those, at least, would have been prevented.“.

    If you really believe that, that is part of the problem. They were all thugs. Thugs steal or get guns other ways around the law.

    I’m not anti gun control. I’m against to adding more laws that do nothing to stop the problem and just effect the law abiding gun owners.

Leave a Reply