Dear President Clinton or President Trump,
Guns are tools that can be both beneficial and harmful to society. According to ProCon.org, “the United States has 88.8 guns per 100 people, or about 270,000,000 guns, which is the highest total and per capita number in the world.” ProCon.org believes America’s established gun culture comes from its colonial history, revolutionary roots, frontier expansion, and the Second Amendment, which states "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." While gun sales from licensed firearm dealers are strongly regulated by federal laws, the lack of adequate gun control regulations for private-party gun sales has allowed guns to get into the hands of questionable people who couldn’t pass the background checks required for purchases from licensed firearm dealers.
In the article Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms, Cook and Ludwig, editors of the Brookings Institution Press in Washington, D.C., found “an estimated 40% of all firearms transferred in the U.S. are transferred by unlicensed individuals.” These unregulated transfers of firearms occur through private-party gun sales and sales at gun shows. The private-sale loophole is frequently referred to as the “gun show” loophole because of the problems associated with gun shows but it applies to all private firearm sales, regardless of where they occur. This loophole is harmful to America because it puts the public at risk.
The lack of regulation for private-party gun sales and the existence of the gun show loophole stems from a large portion of the American population believing that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns. “Many people believe that guns are needed for self-defense from threats ranging from local criminals to foreign invaders; and that gun ownership deters crime rather than causes more crime” (ProCon.org 3). Another cause for the lack of regulation for private-party gun sales is the strong lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Each year the NRA lobbies Congress to pass laws that uphold the Second Amendment or defeat laws that restrict gun ownership. According to OpenSecerts.org Center for Responsible Politics, the NRA spent $2.5 million in 2016 to lobby for gun rights.
However, in the wrong hands, guns can be dangerous since they can seriously injure or kill innocent people or be used in other crimes. In Legal status and source of offenders’ firearms in states with the least stringent criteria for gun ownership, Vittes of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, states “a survey of state prison inmates in 13 states who were convicted of gun offenses found that only 13.4% obtained the gun from a gun store or pawnshop, where background checks are required.” The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) believes that, because individuals who fail a background check can easily access firearms through private sales, “guns are far too easily acquired by prohibited possessors, and too often end up being used in gun crime and gun violence.” Private-party gun sales also represent a significant way for illegal gun trafficking to occur. Unfortunately, this potentially allows the illegal and free movement of guns from states with few private-party gun sale restrictions to states with more laws.
There are varying perspectives on the issue of lack of gun control regulation for private-party gun sales. According to CNN/ORC International, “repeated polls have shown that over 90% of the American public supports laws requiring background checks on all gun purchasers, regardless of whether they buy weapons from licensed dealers or private sellers.” Further, Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D., the author of Perspective: After Newtown — Public Opinion on Gun Policy and Mental Illness, conducted a survey for the New England Journal of Medicine and found “that 84% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members also support requiring a Universal Background Check system for all gun sales.” Still, all members of Congress regardless of their political party, could work together to create and pass new legislation requiring Universal Background Checks for all private-party gun sales.
The time has come for strong leadership on closing the gun show loophole, and I know you, President Clinton or President Trump, are a believer in doing what’s right for the American people. Are you willing to work with Congress to pass new federal laws requiring Universal Background Checks for all private-party gun sales? There are many opinions on the need for additional gun control but the public polls that are mentioned above clearly show that the majority of the American public, including NRA members, support legislation requiring background checks on all gun purchasers. Please do the right thing and act now to save lives.