Despite NRA Panic, Gun Background Checks Good for Public, Economy

Preventing gun violence is front and center as a national issue as a result of the tragic loss of life last month at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut. Clearly there is an elevated national concern for improving the safety of all citizens, especially our children. 

While everyone agrees that there is no one solution to lessening the number of deaths from firearms, one common sense proposal is almost universally supported — background checks for all gun purchases.

Licensed firearms dealers, most of which are brick-and-mortar small business retailers, are required to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for every gun sold other than shotguns and rifles.

Since its inception, this policy has stopped the sale of guns to almost 1.8 million criminals, the mentally ill who have been involuntarily committed to an institution, and others not permitted to own guns. This is a rational, common sense effort to protect the public and law enforcement personnel.

However, those who should be blocked from buying guns often aren’t — instead, they simply buy a firearm at one of the many gun shows that are common throughout the nation or through private sales. It is estimated that 40 percent of all gun sales are made by these unlicensed dealers, which are not required by federal law to do background checks. Even though several states do require background checks at gun shows, 6 million guns a year are sold without this public safety procedure.

The folly of this policy is understood by the vast majority of Americans who want to close this gun show/private sale loophole.

According to an informal telephone poll of local gun retailers, our office found that the owners of these businesses support background checks at all gun shows and other private sales of weapons.

National polling shows that even National Rifle Association members and gun owners are strong supporters of this policy change:

• 90 percent of gun owners voting in swing states in 2012 support requiring background checks on all gun sales including private sales (GOP Pollster Frank Luntz, 2012)

• 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners support requiring criminal background checks on anyone purchasing a gun (GOP Pollster Frank Luntz, 2012)

Gun shows thrive because of the aura of no regulatory oversight. They take sales and profits from our small businesses and allow much of this revenue to leave our communities. We should take steps to protect our locally owned, small business gun retailers from these private sales that not only put our citizens in danger but also hurt our local economies.

Frank Knapp is the President and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

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