Complete Background Check Systems

Kenzie Kidman, Writer

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Many shootings could have been prevented, saving hundreds of lives, if the background check system was more complete. In shooting incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013, mental health problems were almost always present in the shooter (Mihalek). Most of these shooters were able to pass background checks to get a gun because the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS is missing vital information that is necessary for background checks to be effective. Even though a more complete background check system could seem like an invasion of privacy, it can help with keeping things under control. A complete system can lead to private sellers being required to run background checks, it can require states to put important information into the system, and it can stop background checks from being discarded.

The first reason for having a complete background check system is that it can require private sellers to run background checks. It can help keep guns out of criminals’ hands. Daniel Webster, a journalist from The New Republic, said, “If you’re not a licensed dealer and want to sell directly to somebody, then you don’t need to run a background check.” Most of the time, private sellers have no idea if the person they’re selling the gun to is a good person or a potential murderer. Many criminals and gun traffickers know about this loophole, so even if they are in NICS they still have a way of getting firearms. Background checks are useless if loop holes like this exist in the background check system. By requiring private sellers to run background checks it would help keep guns out of the criminals’ hands.

The next reason for having a complete background check system is that it can require states to put essential information into NICS. Right now, it is optional for states to put in criminal and mental health records which would be fine if states actually submitted these records. They only submit registered felons into the system. Donald J. Mihalek, a journalist from CNN, said, “In the case of Parkland, reports indicate the murderer was expelled from school, and the school’s administration was concerned about his violent tendencies…police had been called to his home at least 39 times…[because of his mental illness], child/elderly abuse, and domestic disturbance…yet he was still able to purchase a firearm.” None of this information was submitted into NICS. In many shooting cases it shows the shooter having very alarming behaviors, yet because NICS has so little information, many of these shooters were able to pass background checks and purchase firearms. Requiring states to put important information into the system could help prevent many incidents before they happen.

Another reason to have a complete background check system is that it can stop background checks from being discarded. When licensed sellers do run background checks, if the background check does not meet a certain time limit, it is put aside. Jose Pagliery, a journalist from CNN, said, “When a prospective gun buyer’s name is submitted for a background check, NICS staffers have only three days to compile any outstanding records. If their work is not complete then, gun shops are allowed to sell the weapon to the buyer anyway.” Three days isn’t that long to pull information on someone, especially since NICS has so little information on people. Putting a short time limit on background checks is basically saying that after three days, if they don’t have the background check, then just sell them the gun anyway, even if they are a danger to society. Having a complete background check system could stop dangerous people from using loopholes like this one to get guns.  

Although some people think it would be an invasion of privacy, access to medical files and criminal records is essential for a complete background check system to work. It’s understandable that people would not be comfortable with sharing this information, however doing so is important for safety. Mihalek says, “Privacy laws in many states create a wall to the sharing of information–even when someone is clearly violent, healthcare providers are discouraged from reporting them unless they are a danger to themselves or others.” These laws are put in place to help protect people’s right to privacy, but although it protects the people’s privacy, it blocks NICS from getting information that could potentially save lives. Having such good privacy laws in place allows NICS to have major flaws that are allowing dangerous people to get ahold of guns. Yes, privacy is important, but it’s not as important as  keeping guns out of a killer’s hands.

Those were just a couple of many reasons why having a complete background check system is so important. It all comes down to the fact that people kill people, guns don’t kill people; it’s the person pulling the trigger. With a complete background check system, those people could not be able to get guns, potentially saving hundreds of lives.

  Sources:

Mihalek, Donald J. “Why Gun Background Checks Don’t Work.” CNN, Cable News Network, 26 Feb. 2018,                  

www.cnn.com/2018/02/26/opinions/why-background-checks-dont-work-opinion-mihalek/index.html. Accessed: 30 April 2018.

 

Pagliery, Jose. “NRA Slams Gun-Background System Flaws It Helped Create.” CNN, Cable News Network,

24 Feb. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/02/23/us/nra-criticizes-gaps-it-created-in-gun-background-system-invs/index.html. Accessed: 30 April 2018.

 

Webster, Daniel. “Guns Kill People. And If We Had Universal Background Checks, They Wouldn’t Kill So Many.”

The New Republic, 25 June 2014, newrepublic.com/article/118286/facts-about-gun-control-and-universal-background-checks. Accessed: 30 April 2018.

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