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Editorial: Start by expanding background checks

6:53 PM, Mar. 7, 2013  |  Comments
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A Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Thursday on the Democrats' gun-control plan that includes mandatory background checks, assault weapons ban, gun trafficking restrictions.

The committee passed a proposal making gun trafficking a federal crime. The hearing comes just less than two months after President Barack Obama unveiled his gun-control proposals.

It's understandable that writing legislation takes time, especially when you put together a bill that encompasses everything the Obama proposed:

? Requiring background checks on all gun sales.

? Reinstating the assault weapons ban.

? Renewing a 10-round limit on the size of ammunition magazines.

? Prohibiting armor-piercing bullets.

? Confirming a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

? Penalizing people who help criminals get guns.

Instead of writing an all-encompassing bill, what if Congress wrote a separate bill for each of the president's proposals? The bill would not contain any other appropriations. No pork-barrel spending. No adding of items to which others might object to. Each proposal would have to stand on its own.

For example, the first bill could require mandatory background checks on all gun purchases except for transfers among family members or temporary ones for hunting.

The current loophole makes no sense. If a background check is required for a gun purchase at your local retail store, why isn't it required for sales at the weekend gun show, through classified ads or on the Internet?

Many gun-control opponents claim background checks don't stop all crimes and believe the federal government would use the checks to create a national registry of gun owners and, under a doomsday scenario, use that registry to confiscate all privately held guns.

Just because background checks don't stop all gun violence doesn't mean we should get rid of them. A background check doesn't stop every person nor account for every scenario. What it does is add a layer of security in the gun-purchasing process. Those with no record and eligible to purchase guns would have no worry.

As for a national registry of gun owners, federal law prohibits the creation of such a list. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System "is not to be used to establish a federal firearm registry" and information used in a background check for an approved sale "must be destroyed prior to the start of the next NICS operational day," according to the FBI's website.

Public support for background checks appears to be growing. A CBS News/New York Times poll in January found that 92 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun buyers; our own informal, and unscientific, online poll showed 82 percent supported checks. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that gunmakers, gun dealers, and Second Amendment advocates support instant checks, in a break from the National Rifle Association's rigid stance.

It would appear that some aspects of Obama's plan have support and others do not. So why not take each proposal and vote on it? Start with background checks, which we support. Offer a single piece of legislation focused only on mandatory background checks. No pork, no appropriations. No excuses for lawmakers to hide behind.

That would let voters know what aspects of Obama's proposal their representatives support or disagree with.

In the meantime, contact your lawmaker and let him or her know where you stand on gun control.

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