After the Sandy Hook shooting, President Obama and his colleagues in Congress pushed to close what they call a loophole in background checks. They were not successful. The word loophole, it should be noted, is a political term, primarily used by advocates of gun control who say there’s a gap in the law when it comes to the sale or transfer of guns between private citizens.
Under existing law, anyone who’s in the business of buying or selling guns is supposed to have a federal firearms license. If you have a federal firearms license, then you have to have to run a background check on any gun transfer. But at gun shows, not everyone selling guns is in the regular business of selling them, and not all sellers have to run background checks. Neither do people selling online.
The Associated Press, the Washington-based newspaper the Hill, and several other sources are reporting that President Obama is about to try to do what he couldn’t after Sandy Hook: close the loophole himself. Sources say Obama has asked his team to send him a completed plan post-haste.
In a state with its own online marketplace for Texas-only gun traders, where just about every weekend one can find a gun show, the President’s move could be a big deal indeed.
A spokesperson for the preeminent gun rights group in Texas, the Texas State Rifle Association, did not want comment given that the presidential order has not yet been released.
Andrea Brauer is with a gun violence prevention group called Texas Gun Sense. She says her organization is highly supportive of Obama’s move.
“We are not anti-gun, and we do respect the Second Amendment,” she says, “but we do think it’s time to address the lack of clarity in the definition for federal dealers and universal background checks.”
Brauer says 90 percent of the general public support universal background checks, as do a majority of NRA members. Obama’s pending executive order is no surprise, she says.
“In the gun violence prevention community we’ve been hearing talks about this potentially happening for months now,” she says. “I think, of course, the President is frustrated with not being able to get anything through Congress and the general public is frustrated and scared about the continual mass shootings that we’re hearing almost weekly now in the United States.”
Objections to further expanding background checks have been raised in the past. Some have called it a feel-good move, where politicians win points. Is there any evidence that this would prevent gun violence? Brauer says it could wouldn’t prevent all gun violence, but some.
“Enacting universal background checks would not stop every tragedy, unfortunately, but it certainly could prevent some,” she says. “We do have evidence that universal background checks work.”
According to Brauer, data shows that the 10 states with the strongest gun laws have lower numbers of gun deaths. “They do work and they do catch people that would have been prohibited otherwise,” she says.
Those who are currently prohibited include people with felonies, criminals with violent records, and people who have been adjudicated as mentally ill with a high risk of violence. But that still leaves prohibited people free to buy a gun from a show, from a private online seller or even the black market.
Brauer says the regulation is still necessary despite these risks.
“I think we need to do what we can,” she says. “The regulation exists for a reason. We have background checks because we believe that a gun warrants a background check or a screening of an individual who has one. So it seems to make sense that it doesn’t matter where you purchase it, or who you purchase it from, that that background check should follow that sale and that individual.”
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.