The federal government maintains a massive database of criminals who cannot legally buy firearms. And yet, when the names of more than 203,000 would-be firearm owners were sent to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, some criminals undoubtedly slipped through the cracks.
On the Coast, licensed firearms dealers dutifully follow the law, sending the information on firearms purchasers off to be checked against the database of those barred by law from buying a gun. Still, they know from experience that the database is incomplete because law enforcement officials and courts occasionally fail to supply the conviction information to the FBI.
Just last week a criminal with a history of probation violations from his drug dealings was sent to prison because he was an armed felon. Hardly a week goes by that police don’t report an armed felon being taken into custody.
Clearly, the background check system needs an upgrade.
Firearms dealers say sometimes shoppers are not aware of all the crimes that disqualify a person from owning a gun. For instance, if you have a conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence, you can’t buy a gun. And it doesn’t matter if your felony conviction was 30 years ago, you still can’t buy a gun.
The consequences can be dire. The man who killed 26 people at a Texas church had been court-martialed for a violent attack on his wife and child. He purchased his guns at a store, just like any law-abiding citizen. His name should have been in that database. It wasn’t.
It is ridiculous to assume that a person bent on violence will tell a firearms dealer the truth about his or her criminal history. The background check system is the best line of defense that we, the law-abiding, have against these people.
We ask law enforcement and the courts to double-down on their efforts to keep this system as up-to-date as possible. And we thank our firearms dealers for being diligent in using the system.
People often argue against passing more restrictions on firearms ownership until the laws on the books are enforced.
This law, part of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, is one of the laws that must be enforced. Between 1998 and 2016, the NICS stopped more than 1.3 million transactions, where criminals were trying to buy guns
The sane approach is to keep firearms out of the hands of as many violent criminals as possible. The alternative is to take the guns out of their hands, often their dead hands, after the carnage.
The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.