Coalition Against Gun Violence: A Santa Barbara County Coalition

“The Brady Bill has finally become law in a fundamental sense not because of any of us, but because grassroots America changed its mind and demanded that this Congress not leave here without doing something about this.  And all of us—even Jim and Sarah (Brady)—did was to somehow light that spark that swept across the people of this country and proved once again that Democracy can work.”  President Clinton, November 30, 1993

The Brady Act requires that background checks be conducted on individuals before a firearm may be purchased from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer—unless an exception applies. If there are no additional state restrictions, a firearm may be transferred to an individual upon approval by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) maintained by the FBI.  Background checks for firearms purchases operate in only one direction because of NRA opposition. That is, although a firearms dealer may obtain electronic information that an individual that they are excluded from firearms purchases, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, (ATF) do not receive electronic information in return to indicate what firearms are being purchased.

I can’t remember a time when a kid in school was proud to show a failing grade to mom and dad. The student knew all too well that mom and dad would be disappointed because 60 percent on a test did not only mean the child did not pass, it was also unacceptable. A continued performance at 60 percent would also prevent the student from graduating to the next grade level.

Unfortunately, the same embarrassment in poor academic performance does not exist when it comes to the number of gun sales covered by background checks in this country. Like the student’s less than stellar exam, background checks apply to only about 60 percent of gun purchases.

The reason Americans deserve better than 60 percent when it comes to background checks on gun sales is because they work when required. Background checks are an effective tool that have blocked more than 2 million purchases, keeping guns away from convicted felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people.

The good news is that we have an opportunity to strengthen the background check system, already a demonstrated success. Like the student who commits to more study time, in an effort to boost his academic performance, we can make the current law better by ensuring a background check is required for every gun purchase.

Expanding Brady background checks addresses the reality that more and more criminals are buying their guns online because the Internet is a no man’s land when it comes to requiring a background check.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of President Bill Clinton signing the Brady background check bill into law.  Gun violence prevention advocates, victims and supporters gathered in our nation’s capital to tell Congress that it’s time to finish the job and expand Brady background checks to cover all gun sales

Ninety percent of the American public supports extending background checks to gun sales online and at gun shows. This also includes over 80 percent of gun owners and NRA members.

Two decades later, we are seeing the tide turn, once again, to sensible solutions meant to reduce the number of gun deaths and keep people safer.  We need to finish the job and expand background checks to all gun sales. In a country where gun violence kills more than thirty-one thousand people a year, sixty percent is not getting the job done.

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