Clegg: Guns don't kill people, laws do

BY CHRIS CLEGG | APRIL 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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While the Second Amendment right to bear arms is just as important as any of the other nine invaluable amendments in the Bill of Rights, it is important to note that George Washington wasn’t sporting a mini-Uzi, and Thomas Jefferson never shot an assault rifle.

Guns today are more powerful, accurate, and deadly than they have ever been, and for this reason, Iowa lawmakers should seriously consider the consequences before passing legislation that would undermine the process of background checks on Iowa gun owners.

Two bills in the Iowa Legislature, one that has passed the House (Iowa House File 527) and one that is floating through the Senate (Senate File 425), would, among other changes, eliminate the process of background checks when firearm sales occur on a private level.

Under current law, Iowans who want to own  handguns must possess annual permits allowing them to do so. With this permit comes a background check, and, because the permit needs to be renewed annually, the background check also needs to be implemented annually. However, this new legislation, currently in a Senate judicial subcommittee, “eliminates this type of mandatory permit and provides instead for an optional [state] permit to acquire firearms in order to satisfy the requirements of federal law …”

Essentially, what SF425 does is eliminate the required annual background check and transfer that responsibility of running a check to the seller of the weapon. The idea is that those who purchase firearms from vendors get checked more frequently as opposed to just once annually. This premise works out fine when established businesses such as gun stores or outdoors stores sell to buyers because these institutions have sufficient means of conducting background checks. However, the legislation completely breaks down on an individual level.

With your Average Joes unable, or, the more likely of the two, unwilling to conduct a background check every time they sell one of their weapons, the chance for criminals, children, and the psychologically instable to gain access to these deadly weapons certainly increases.

Making the access to firearms easier than it already is could have a slew of negative effects from increased murder rates to a rise in crime, and we see these statistics manifest themselves in states that are considered to have “weak” gun laws.

According to the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit that conducted research on the correlation of gun laws and the number of gun-related deaths in America, “… states with weak gun-violence-prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership have the highest overall gun-death rates in the nation.” Conversely, “… states with the lowest overall gun-death rates have lower rates of gun ownership and some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the nation.” Iowa ranks in the bottom 10 states when it comes to firearm-death rates, according to Violence Policy Center and also falls just below the national average for such a statistic.

In order to keep Iowa’s presence towards the bottom of this list, our lawmakers should steer clear of any bills making it easier for those who are not qualified to carry weapons to do so. Additionally, SF 425 would probably gain more bipartisan support if the bill itself were condensed to a change or two instead of completely restructuring current law. How’s the saying go? You have to walk before you can run.

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