When was the last time 89% of Americans agreed on anything?
In the wake of the Orlando massacre that took the lives of 49 people and injured more than 50 others, Americans are finally united on at least one aspect of gun control. According to a new CBS poll, 89% of the country (92% of Republicans, 97% of Democrats, and 82% of Independents) believes it’s time to institute universal background checks for firearm purchases.
Background checks are required for nearly all gun purchases already, but certain private sales and transfers are exempt from the policy. It is, of course, worth noting that Omar Mateen – the terrorist responsible for the Orlando attack – passed a background check before purchasing the weapons used last Sunday.
Background checks are not a societal evil, but neither are they the anti-violence panacea that many have been led to believe. Have they kept guns out of the hands of individuals who should certainly not have them? Probably. But – as demonstrated again and again – they have failed to stop some of this country’s worst killers from obtaining deadly weaponry.
Why is that?
Well, for one: A determined criminal does not need to buy his guns from a legal dealer. No amount of legislation is going to make black-market sellers run background checks on their customers. No legislation will keep disturbed young men like Newtown’s Adam Lanza from stealing their guns from parents or relatives or friends.
Two, many of these mass murderers are first-time offenders. If there’s nothing in a person’s background to check, a background check isn’t going to do much. Investigations in the aftermath of these shootings often turn up a litany of warning signs, but a long criminal record is seldom among them. Unless we’re going to start denying people their Second Amendment rights based on ominous comments they made in the 10th grade or the “gut feelings” of their neighbors, there’s not much meat on this particular bone.
Not one of the significant mass shootings since Columbine would have been prevented by a universal background check system. Even putting aside the potential such a system has for abuse, shouldn’t we put our energies towards solutions that would…uh…actually make a difference?