Our View: Firearms background checks are working

Feb. 18, 2013 @ 05:04 PM

National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre, as might be expected, wasn’t impressed by President Obama’s remarks regarding more gun control during last week’s State of the Union address.
In response to Obama’s calls for background checks on all firearms purchases and bans on assault weapons and larger-sized magazines, LaPierre obviously was in no mood for discussions that might produce some common ground and common sense compromises.
Instead, LaPierre said the real intentions of gun control proponents are to “ban every gun they can, tax every gun sold and register every gun owner.” He also commented negatively about universal background checks: “Even when prohibited people are flagged by the system now, they are almost never stopped.”
But in Virginia, at least, such a view of background checks doesn’t seem to be accurate. Perhaps LaPierre should contact Virginia law enforcement officials for conversations on how well that state’s background checks system appears to be working, especially since more information on mental health matters was added to the system after the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech.
According to The Associated Press, Virginia State Police records show that from 2007 to 2012, the number of gun purchase denials involving mental health issues rose from 109 in 2007 to 340 last year. During the same period, the number of denials for felons trying to buy guns rose from 420 to 609. Interestingly, Virginia authorities follow-up on denied attempts to purchase firearms and have prosecuted ineligible people for trying to purchase weapons.
Virginia officials say 54,260 people have been prevented from purchasing guns since 1989 because of the background checks system. Nationally, federal statistics show about 2.1 million gun transactions were denied through background checks from 1993 to 2010. So it seems a case could be made contrary to LaPierre’s negative views and comments on the effectiveness of background checks.
It would behoove LaPierre to engage in constructive dialogue with the president and gun law proponents to further explore the use of expanded background checks as the prime avenue for keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not be purchasing and possessing them.
As Vice President Joe Biden said, the purpose of his group’s examination of firearms and violence in America was to keep guns out of the hands of “bad people.” The best way to do that is to expand and improve the background checks system required for firearms purchases.