A picture accompanying a recent story about U.S. gun laws in the Guardian newspaper shows a sign on a table of semi-automatic guns for sale at an Alabama gun show. The sign says “no paper work” and credit cards welcome.
That’s not news to anyone who has been to a gun show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh or just followed the absurd debate about guns in America, but it is startling nonetheless.
Think about it for a second. Anyone can walk up to that table and thousands like it at events every weekend across the county with cash or credit and buy a weapon that can shoot 30 times a minute without reloading, many more times with the high capacity magazines that are also for sale to whoever wants them, no questions asked.
Anyone, somebody wanted for a violent crime, somebody with a serious mental illness, somebody who is angry at their spouse or neighbor, somebody who wants to take over a building or shoot up a school. Anyone.
The overwhelming majority of people think that is a bad idea, that we need at least minimal background checks for people buying guns.
A poll released by the Pew Research center last summer showed that 88 percent of Americans favored expanding background checks to cover private sales at gun shows. And it’s not just liberals or Democrats—79 percent of Republicans agree.
It’s hard to think of many issues in our current polarized political debate that enjoy such broad and bipartisan support.
Gun owners support the expanded background checks too. A poll cited in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013 found that 74 percent of NRA members support background checks for all gun sales.
Leaders of the NRA used to support background checks—but not anymore. Just their members do.
Expanding background checks won’t solve the problem of gun violence of course and it won’t prevent every mass shooting or keep every dangerous person from buying a deadly weapon.
But it will stop some of them. That’s it why seems so obvious to so many people that there should be at least minimal screening of folks who are buying guns.
That’s the central focus of President Obama’s new executive actions, to do what he can with the authority he has to make it more difficult for people to buy a gun who shouldn’t be allowed to own one.
Congress is too intimidated to act. A vocal minority led by gun groups won’t allow any reasonable debate in Washington and several Republican candidates for president are already promising to reverse Obama’s executive orders.
They apparently believe that anyone, regardless of their motives or background, should be allowed to walk into a gun show and walk out with a semi-automatic rifle.
It is mindboggling when you forget about the politics and the soundbites and simply think about the table full of guns in Alabama or North Carolina or virtually every other state.
Obama just wants take small steps, expand policies supported by nine out of ten Americans to stop some people from buying deadly weapons without a simple background check.
It’s not clear what it is exactly that opponents of the policy fear. Obama’s not talking about confiscating any weapons or limiting gun sales or anything else included in the crazy rhetoric used by fringe groups to oppose any initiative to address gun violence.
He simply wants to make it less likely that dangerous people will get dangerous weapons. Paperwork should be required.
It seems like the very least we can do to make our communities safer.
Chris Fitzsimon is the Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch.