A Welcome Push for Gun Background Checks
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Now leading a highly polarized House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has zeroed in on one issue that commands broad public support: requiring background checks on all gun sales. Eighty-five percent of American adults — including 79 percent of Republicans — support them for private sales and at gun shows, a recent survey shows.
The House Democrats’ new legislation to require these checks should be considered and passed without delay.
Americans want this for obvious reasons: Since 1994, background checks have blocked more than 3.5 million gun sales to felons, domestic abusers and others prohibited from buying firearms.
Yet the background check loophole, which the gun lobby has vigorously supported, makes it easy for many criminals to evade scrutiny. A recent study estimated that more than one-fifth of American gun owners who reported having acquired their most recent firearm within the previous two years did so without a background check. The new legislation would require unlicensed sellers to meet buyers at a federally licensed gun dealer, which would run a background check on the purchaser. The bill would include exceptions for family, law enforcement, hunting and emergency self-defense.
In 2017, 39,773 people in the U.S. were killed by gun violence, the highest tally in decades. Yet guns remain widely available to people prohibited from having them via the Internet or at unregulated gun shows.
In recent years, many states have adopted new gun-safety regulations, including red-flag laws to facilitate the removal of guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or others. Yet national lawmakers have refused to budge, even in the wake of the 2012 massacre of children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, and repeated mass shootings since then.
Presuming that the House passes the new background-check bill, after proper vetting, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should promptly schedule a vote in the Senate. With support for the gun lobby waning, and a vibrant, well-informed gun-safety movement gaining force, Republicans have good reason to shift their political calculations on the issue. If McConnell instead defies reason, and public demand, the consequences for his party may be immense.
Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.
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