Patch holes in background checks
Americans don’t agree on many things.
Everyone apparently wants their coffee differently. There are far too many sports teams. Even the most popular television shows are watched by a fraction of the viewing audience.
Perhaps patriotism tops the list, but there are broad interpretations of what it really means.
So, any issue endorsed by 95 percent of Americans should define a consensus, right?
A poll released last week by Quinnipiac University suggests the support of American voters for universal background checks for gun purchases is at all-time high, with 95 percent backing it and 4 percent opposed. In household where there is a gun, support is at 94-5 percent.
Quinnipiac first did the survey after the Sandy Hook massacre that claimed 26 lives five years ago. Support should have been at 100 percent then, but it apparently took similar tragedies in Las Vegas and Texas recently to tighten the remaining gap even more.
Polls won’t persuade members of Congress to do the right thing. But stubborn members seem to be tilting in the wake of the U.S. Air Force’s admitted failure to enter Devin P. Kelley’s 2012 conviction for domestic abuse into the National Criminal Information Center database before Kelley allegedly killed 26 people in a Texas church earlier this month.
Democratic Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal are trying to seize the moment by crafting legislation with Republicans colleagues who were once reluctant to take on the issue, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Blumenthal called the proposed gun background check system “a modest step,” but acknowledged that “it is significant if it breaks the ice of partisan complicity and dysfunction that has paralyzed Congress on this issue.'”
Those buzz words — partisan, dysfunction and paralyzed — are shorthand for Congress’s response to this defining American crisis. As those public percentages rise, so do the number of the dead. But even without the numbing recurrences of mass shootings, different figures should have inspired a call to action.
While Connecticut has placed 655,651 records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System maintained by the FBI — which places it as fourth behind Pennsylvania, California and Massachusetts — Montana has recorded just 18, according to the FBI.
Is that resistance? Laziness? Treachery?
Sadly, the proposed solution in the proposed Fix NICS Act is to treat the offenders as though they were toddlers, or pets.
Federal agencies and states that comply would be rewarded with grant preferences, while those that fail would be exposed in the public square. Federal appointees who don’t meet standards could lose bonuses.
It shouldn’t take threats of financial penalties and shame to get states to do the paperwork to ensure background checks are reliable. It suggests the only thing Americans are more passionate about than guns is money.
Cornyn offered hope of a bipartisan deal when he told Murphy, “Let’s surprise everybody.”
Surprise us. Let the gun lobby know Congress has more power than they do.