The NRA really stands alone on gun background checks

FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2013 file photo, a customer looks over shotguns on display at the annual New York State Arms Collectors Association Albany Gun Show at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Philip Kamrass, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2013 file photo, a customer looks over shotguns on display at the annual New York State Arms Collectors Association Albany Gun Show at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Philip Kamrass, File)
Posted: October 08, 2013

AS I WRITE this, there hasn't been a mass shooting in weeks.

I'll use the lull to shoot off my mouth about guns, divorced from the debate that usually follows a massacre in which both sides dance on victims' graves for PR gain.

When President Obama tried early this year to get gun restrictions passed - including background checks identical to Pennsylvania's current system - the vast majority of Americans wanted what he wanted. His most important goal was broadened criminal-background checks at the point of sale for guns. Despite overwhelming public approval, Congress chickened out, mainly because of opposition from the National Rifle Association that purports to represent gun owners (like me), gun sellers and gun manufacturers.

I am not a member - the NRA doesn't represent me or most of my pistol-packing pals. Some of my NRA friends say it doesn't represent them, either, on background checks.

A poll by Frank Luntz, who usually works for Republicans, reported that a majority of current and former NRA members favor background checks. "Majority" understates the case - it was 74 percent.

That's an amazing statistic, but I have one (allow me to invent a word) that's amazinger.

The Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, polled licensed dealers who sell more than 50 guns annually. It reported that 55.4 percent of the surveyed gun dealers support background checks.

That's a greater percentage than Obama got over Mitt Romney, and it comes from the very people who would be most "burdened" (aside from the criminals and the deranged) by background checks.

So gun sellers join gun owners and literally everyone else in wanting more background checks.

Under current federal law, anyone buying a handgun or long gun from a Federal Firearms Licensee in any state must submit to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The issue: Rifles and shotguns can be bought from private individuals without a background check, at gun shows for instance. State laws controlling such sales are a crazy quilt. That is the huge, dangerous loophole Americans want closed.

After years of writing about gun issues, I developed a plan to reduce the risk of gun violence. Neither side will love it all.

* Mandatory instant background check for everyone, for every gun sold.

* One gun purchase a month. This is aimed at slowing the multiple straw purchaser.

* Increase prison time to 10 years for straw purchasers (who buy a gun to pass along to someone who can't pass a background check).

* Lost or stolen guns must be reported, to thwart straw purchasers who may claim the guns they sold illegally were lost or stolen.

* No "assault weapon" ban. It was tried for a decade to little effect, and the Washington Navy Yard maniac used a shotgun. In 2011, the FBI reports, shotgun homicides (356) outnumbered rifle homicides (323). Both were dwarfed by handguns (6,220), the biggest problem.

* Make carrying a gun in a crime a federal offense, 10-year mandatory, added to the sentence for the original crime.

* No clips with more than 15 rounds. If you can't hit a target with 15 chances, you shouldn't be packing. (Limiting ammo negates a "need" to ban "assault rifles.")

* States must report people with mental illnesses to a federal database, as they are required to do. Most lag behind.

* Hollywood should reduce violence - in films, recordings, video games.

* No more "gun-free" zones. They don't stop gunmen; they provide defenseless targets.

Will my plan end all gun crime? Of course not. Will it stop some? You make that call.


Email: stubyko@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

Columns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky

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