Background Checks Won’t Make Us Safer|
March 11, 2013
In April of 2007, a mentally disturbed student showed up at the campus of his
school, Virginia Tech, brandishing two semi-automatic pistols, and murdered 32
students, teachers and school employees and wounded 17 others. Then he took his
It was the one of deadliest mass shooting incidents in American history.
The nation was in shock, as it is now following the December mass murder at the
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The press and public outcry was the same then as now. How can we stop horrors
like this from occurring? We’ve got to stop criminals and nut cases from getting
their hands on guns.
The tragedy spurred passage of the first major piece of federal gun control
legislation since the assault weapon ban was passed in 1994.
The new law, signed by President George W. Bush in January of 2008, appropriated
$1.3 billion for states to get the names of those deemed mentally ill into the
FBI national data base used for gun-purchase screening. This supposedly would
solve the problem of lax state compliance and make the National Instant Criminal
Background Check System (NICS) more effective.
If only this had been the law of the land a year earlier, commentators opined,
the Virginia Tech tragedy might not have happened.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said it would
“close the wide gaps in our nation’s firearm background-check system to ensure
violent criminals and the mentally ill no longer slip through the cracks and
gain access to dangerous weapons.”
But a more sober message came at the time from the now late professor, American
Enterprise Institute scholar and presidential Medal of Freedom recipient James
He wrote then: “The tragedy at Virginia Tech may tell us something about how a
young man could be driven to commit terrible actions, but it does not teach us
very much about gun control.”
Even if there were tougher background checks, Wilson continued, “access to guns
would be relatively easy … many would be stolen and others would be obtained
through straw purchases by a willing confederate. It is virtually impossible to
use new background-check or waiting-period laws to prevent dangerous people from
getting guns. Those they cannot buy, they will steal or borrow.”
Now, five years after Bush signed the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007
into law, we have “déjà vu all over again.”
Not only have we tragically witnessed another deranged young man entering a
school and murdering innocent youth, but we now must witness again politicians
offering the same non-solution to allegedly deal with the problem: wider
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, who is pushing legislation for universal background
checks, was one of the original sponsors of the law that Bush signed five years
It is even worse now. Adam Lanza, the deranged young Sandy Hook murderer, used a
rifle from his mother’s collection in their home. No background check could deal
with something like this.
Schumer will not solve the problem, yet he will make things worse by making it
harder for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights to
bear arms and protect themselves.
And exactly how might expanded checks impinge on both our privacy and our
Those who have ever seen a psychologist may be at risk. Those who have any kind
of infraction on their record may be at risk.
Some states require doctors to counsel women considering an abortion that the
procedure can result in various emotional problems. Might women receiving
abortions in these states have difficulty purchasing a gun?
Let’s stop playing games. The problem is people, not guns. Our society suffers
from a deficiency of personal responsibility -- not from an excess of personal
Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal
and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based
public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle
Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do