Greenwich Gun Safety Advocate: Another mass shooting and opponents of gun regulation accuse advocates of stronger gun laws of exploiting tragedy.

Letter to the editor submitted by Jonathan Perloe, a member of the Greenwich Council Against Gun Violence, July 25, 2015

To the Editor:

As typically happens after mass shootings, opponents of gun regulation accuse advocates of stronger gun laws of exploiting the tragedy, and suggest that America’s crisis of gun violence can be solved simply with better enforcement of existing gun laws.  Just after the Charleston massacre, Lawrence G. Keane, general counsel of the National Sports Shooting Foundation trade association accused Everytown for Gun Safety of “exploiting this tragedy for a cheap publicity stunt.” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said, “the facts undercut attempts to use the tragedy to enact unnecessary gun laws.”

Enforcement of existing laws is important, which is why the bills introduced in Congress in 2013 following the Sandy Hook shooting called for improvements in and increased funding for the National Instant Background Check System (NICS), the process used by federally licensed firearm dealers to screen for criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous persons. However, even with improved compliance, there will be occasions when background checks cannot be completed within the three days, allowing dealers to consummate the sale in the absence of knowing whether the buyer is prohibited from owning a firearm.

According to the FBI, 2,511 sales were made in 2014 to prohibited buyers. Although a small fraction of total gun sales, and many of the illegal guns are eventually retrieved by the ATF (sometimes months later), this gift to the gun lobby puts the public at risk. Such was the case with the Charleston shooter who was able to buy a gun even though he was prohibited from doing so. If Congress truly cares about public safety, it would extend the waiting time for completion of background checks, as proposed in the Background Check Completion Act introduced by Representative Clyburn (D-SC) in response to the Charleston tragedy.

Calling the three day timeframe a “safety valve” for protecting Second Amendment rights, the NRA responded to Clyburn’s bill with its usual refrain: “determined criminals can always obtain firearms illegally to carry out their plans.”  The NRA stance ignores the fact that Brady background checks have stopped 2.4 million purchases by prohibited persons.

Beyond extending the time frame for completing background checks, it is much more important for Congress to enact universal background checks, extending them to cover private sales at gun shows and online, where an estimated 40 percent of gun purchases take place. Consistently supported by 85 to 90 percent of Americans, including gun owners, Congress has still failed to act. It is encouraging that Senators Manchin (D-WV) and Toomey (R-PA) have publicly stated they want to renew their effort to enact the universal background check bill that was filibustered by Republicans in 2013. Both Senators had been “A” rated by the NRA prior to embracing a position that Toomey described as “common sense.”

We know from recent state-level success in strengthening gun safety laws that the gun lobby is not invincible. But enacting reasonable measures to reduce gun violence requires broad and vocal support from the majority of Americans who want laws that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. A good way to start is to contact Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and urge them to pave the way for passage of universal background checks.

Jonathan Perloe
Cos Cob, CT
Jonathan Perloe is a member of the Greenwich Council Against Gun Violence.

  • John walker

    Expected but flawed thinking on the part of Mr Perloe. Most importantly, Perloe leaves out the one contiguous factor between ALL the most recent mass shootings – the presence of severe mental illness. Not a word about that in his editorial. Second, he also fails to address another very important reality – the Louisiana theater and the South Caralina killers both obtained their weapons after successfully completing a background check. Which kind of proves that background checks are not the panacea Perloe believes they are. Between errors in the humans doing the background checks to a first time gun buyer who,is mentally ill with no criminal or mental illness history, the background checks are not a panacea. Mr Perloe should educate himself on guns first, as without a mentally ill person buying, loading, aiming and then firing one, the gun itself is of no danger. If police and military people find guns useful in the right hands then so should the public be allowed to protect themselves from the violent mentally ill. Last week two brothers in Broken Arrow Oklahoma rooks knives and killed five members of their families – more people killed than the Louisiana theater killing but Mr Perloe who claims to value human life and children lives specifically fails to mention that mass killing. People like Perloe in my opinion are more dangerous than the average law abiding gun owner. Perloe should spent his time looking at the mental health crisis and lack of care and institutions to treat and isolate the dangerous mentally ill from the rest of society. Violently Mentally ill people kill others not the single unattended weapon. It’s mental illness that causes these crimes not a inanimate metal object.

  • Matt Brown

    So how many people actually registered their assault weapons in CT after the law went into effect? In NY? In Oregon the sheriffs have stated they won’t enforce the new background check bill. In Colorado the sheriffs have refused to enforce the magazine limit ban. In NY sheriffs have stated they will not enforce the SAFE act….

    What you are passing at the state level is being ignored systematically. Is this a better outcome for you? Feel more safe?