Just four months ago feelings were high following yet another mass shooting, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Emotions were still strong as Barack Obama made an impassioned plea for new regulations this week. While a project put forward by two senators falls short of his (Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania), it takes a clear step in one area of the debate.
Senator Toomey said: “The bottom line for me is this: if expanding background checks to include gun shows and Internet sales can reduce the likelihood of criminals and mentally ill people getting guns… and [if] we can do it in a fashion that does not infringe the Second Ammendment rights of law-abiding citizens… then we should do it, and in this ammendment I think we do.”
Currently background checks only cover sales in licensed gun stores. The agreement on the table would expand this to include sales at gun shows and online.
Proponents say this would close a loophole that analysts say allows as many as 40 percent of buyers to escape being checked. On the other hand, this loophole would not apply to private sales among friends and family.
In Texas, some store owners don’t like the direction legislation might be heading.
A store owner in Texas, Martha Constant, said: “If the bill passes the way the summary reads and they actually institute a national registry of firearms, it’s going to cause more problems than it’s going to help, because the registries always seem to get stolen, and they always end up in the hands of the bad guys.”
Pro-firearms activists abhor the prospect of a national register of gun owners. The senators want to make it illegal to use data from background checks to establish such a registry.
More controversial parts of Obama’s gun control plan appear to have a slim chance of succeeding, such as banning rapid-fire assault weapons and limiting ammunition capacity. Along with many Republicans and even moderate Democrats, the National Rifle Association oppose the package.