In the past year, the United States has witnessed an abundance of heartbreaking tragedies. Two of these were the mass shootings at a Colorado movie theater and Sandy Hook Elementary School, resulting in the deaths of innocent children and adults who will remain in our hearts forever. These mass shootings once again brought the issue of gun control to the nation’s attention. The country seemed split as to whether the government should enforce stricter gun laws, some arguing that stricter laws would violate the Second Amendment, which gives people the right to bear arms. Others believe that such laws would keep powerful weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. The Senate voted down a bill April 18 that would have expanded background checks on firearms and ban certain semiautomatic weapons. The Editorial Board is disappointed with this decision and strongly believes this legislation would have begun to curb the frightening trend of gun attacks in this country and helped to save countless lives.
The Manchin-Toomey Amendment, as it’s called, planned to expand background checks to include private sales at gun shows and all Internet sales; most sales via friends and family would be excluded from this bill. To pass the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, 60 out of 100 possible votes were needed. The final vote was 54 favoring to 46 opposing, including most Republicans and four Democrats.
A poll conducted by CNN/ORC showed that 86 percent of Americans support expanded background checks. Congress also voted down the proposal to reintroduce the 1994 ban on semiautomatic weapons that expired in 2004. This ban included the possession, transfer or manufacturing of 19 named firearms, semiautomatic rifles, pistols and shotguns that have certain features. Congress also voted down an alternate plan that better reflected the views of the National Rifle Association. The plan did not include any expansion of background checks but instead asked for more funding to better support the existing system.
Proposals like the Manchin-Toomey Amendment seek to make it so that anyone who buys a gun must undergo a background check. Internet buyers, who have long taken advantage of the fact that they aren’t uniformly required to be checked, would be under notice, and even people selling out of cars would be obligated to undergo checks before making sales. The National Instant Criminal Background Check, run by the FBI, references names against state and federal records to check for qualification.
After all, the goal is not to prohibit hunters and those who seek protection from owning guns. But screening every potential gun owner would flag convicted felons, domestic abusers, the mentally unstable, drug users and people with a warrant out for their arrest. These individuals would be deemed unqualified to buy these weapons. It’s frightening to consider that we live in a country where these people are free to access such destructive devices.
When we herald our nation for being a democracy, it can be frustrating to see our government at such a standstill about something that a majority of the public supports. If our representatives in Congress were elected to vocalize and represent the views of the people, and 86 percent of the people are in favor of the changes that this bill includes, then it seems logical that the bill would have passed without a problem. Even the watered-down version of the proposition (changes were made in anticipation of this very problem) didn’t pass.
In the wake of the recent tragedies, we thought that this would be something everyone could agree on — not necessarily banning guns but making sure that we aren’t facilitating the acquisition of guns by lunatics. How many more people must die before we have meaningful gun control reform passed?