Why aren't criminal background checks required for all gun sales?

This is the new initiative challenging the NRA I was referring to yesterday Texas Nate

Did you know that there is no federal requirement for criminal background checks for all gun sales? As a gun owner and avid shooter, I believe in a strong second amendment. But in today's world, it's crazy to allow convicted criminals and suspected terrorists to be able to buy an unlimited number of easily concealable, high powered weapons from unlicensed arms dealers and at thousands of gun shows without even asking to see an ID or running a simple background check.

More than 50 percent of guns sold in our country are sold by private, unlicensed arms dealers, but only federally licensed gun dealers are required to run background checks.  In fact, there are documented cases in which Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and IRA terrorists have exploited a loophole in the gun laws to purchase military style, high capacity weapons at legal gun shows where anybody can walk in and can buy guns without having to show ID or go through a simple background check. This is madness.

In the wake of Virginia Tech, the worst gun-related massacre in US history, the only response that some members of Congress are considering is to include some mental health records in the National Instant Check System (NICS) database. But only federally licensed gun dealers use the NICS. This won't do anything about the unlicensed arms dealers that sell up 50 percent of the guns in our country. The sad reality is that the equivalent of a Virginia Tech and Columbine High School massacre happen every day in the US.

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Calling Out the NRA

For decades now, the NRA has held our government hostage. Their trademark has long been an absolute extremism that rejects even the most sensible restrictions on guns. Ban copper jacketed bullets that only exist to penetrate police body armor? No Way! Require traveling arms dealers selling weapons at gun shows to perform background checks? Hell no!

They've been able to get away with this because of two factors:
1) They've spent millions on slick advertising campaigns over the past decades to soften their brand image. Their "I am the NRA" campaign was genius and changed their perception as extremist gun nuts into one of a mainstream organization of sportsmen and women.

2) Meanwhile their political actions have been anything but. The NRA pioneered the zero tolerance policy. Any law that in any way shape or form reduces easy access to weaponry is opposed tooth and nail. Any politician who doesn't vote their way can expect a vicious and well-funded assault during the next election cycle. The NRA is one of the key factors, along with Grover Norquist, in the extinction of the moderate Republican.

The NRA's stranglehold on our government results in the needless killings of 83 people a day. Today's Boston Globe editorial gets right to heart of the problem.

Many people don't realize that fully half the gun sales in this country are in the unlicensed "private" market, purchases made either between individuals or at gun shows and flea markets. Guns of all kinds can be sold without any background checks, to anyone -- people with criminal records, terrorist connections, or mental illness. Why shouldn't everyone be subject to the same safeguards as those in Massachusetts? Why can't Congress close the gun-show loophole? One answer: $8 million in campaign contributions from the NRA since 2000.
The NRA continues to oppose any sensible approach to gun policy in our country. For too long their intimidation tactics have gone unchallenged. It's time to put an end to the NRA's stranglehold on our government and implement common sense national gun policies like closing the gun show loophole that allows violent criminals and terrorists to walk in and buy high-powered weapons without so much as going through a background check.

USA Today can see through the NRA's rhetoric, too. And they note that gun shows still thrive where background checks are required. The only people that stand to lose are criminals and terrorists - people that shouldn't have weapons in the first place.

Several states have closed this loophole by requiring that all sales at gun shows involve background checks. Private sellers have to walk buyers over to a nearby licensed dealer for a background check that usually takes just a few minutes. This isn't excessively onerous, and it hasn't stopped gun shows where it's required. A new study by a doctor who observed 28 gun shows in California and nearby states found shows thriving but noted that many would-be buyers backed away when they realized they'd be subject to a background check.

Closing the gun show loophole wouldn't end illegal sales, but it's a minimally invasive way to stop guns from getting into the hands of people who shouldn't have them. It's not on the congressional agenda now, but it should be. It's more useful than trying to intimidate federal agencies policing gun shows.

Tomorrow a new campaign to call out the NRA will launch, stay tuned.

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Gun control - Dems have the NRA covered

I've had my mind on other things the last few days, so it was only today that Jerome's heads-up alerted me to the dark (but predictable) doings in the Senate Apps Committee.

There is nothing (that I can see) on the Committee site (which is not one of the better examples); but the today's NYT editorial he links says that 5 Dem members voted with the GOP for the Shelby Amendment, which strengthens the Tiahrt Amendment.

Feel free to yawn.

However - what the Tiahrt Amendment does is to prevent the ATF from using gun purchase info in all but the narrowest ways; the Shelby Amendment backs this prohibition with criminal sanctions.

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Polls Show Declining Power of Gun Lobby

Gun Lobby's Declining Pull
By Glenn Hurowitz

Even in the wake of a shooting as horrific as the Virginia Tech massacre, the gun lobby still looms very large in Washington. Neither the congressional leadership nor any of the leading presidential candidates have indicated that they're going to bring up gun control legislation that could prevent guns from getting into the hands of people like Cho Seung-Hui - or the criminals who used guns to kill 11,624 Americans in 2004 alone. "I hope there's not a rush to do anything," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
It's not that most Democrats think that common sense gun control measures don't make sense. It's that they've bought into the notion (peddled aggressively by the National Rifle Association) that any support at all for gun control is political suicide.  
It's an old Washington trick: if you can't win a policy debate on the merits, convince politicians that a certain policy will help them get elected. And the NRA has been a master at this gambit. During the 12 years in which Republicans controlled Congress, lots of pro-gun candidates won big with the NRA's vocal support.
But are those victories actually attributable to the gun issue - or were there other factors at work as well?
Public opinion data suggests that the gun lobby has played only a very small role in determining election outcomes; indeed, there's a strong indication that support for reasonable gun control measures actually boosts performance at the polls, even in relatively conservative districts.

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FDR's first labor bill - a strange story

A coupla days ago, I recommended the Martens book on the history of labor law and US unions that took the story up to passage of the Norris-LaGuardia in 1932.

There's no doubt that the Depression and the consequent risk of serious civil unrest and worse had the Congress in an mood amenable to labor law reform.

Martens' section on Norris-LaGuardia (p158ff) shows Norris getting nowhere with the anti-injunction bill he introduced in 1928; by 1932, only 14 reps and 5 senators voted against the final version.

(And the act was passed in the March, a year or so before FDR took up the reins of presidential office.)

One issue both parties addressed in the 1932 prez campaign was working hours - a key demand of the AFL under William Green.

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