by Brian Washington
One year after the deadly shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a new report is helping Americans cut through all the misleading claims surrounding the gun safety debate and raising solutions for keeping guns away from dangerous people.
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The Center for American Progress has just released a report examining six key claims related to background checks—a topic that was at the center of the gun safety debate on Capitol Hill earlier this year. The report, entitled, “The Gun Debate 1 Year After Newtown: Assessing Six Key Claims about Background Checks” looks at some of the primary assertions made during the debate including:
- 40 percent of gun sales occur without a background check;
- Few criminals visit gun shows to acquire guns illegally;
- Universal background checks will not work because criminals will not submit to them;
- Efforts to prevent gun violence should focus on straw purchasing from gun dealers, not gun transfers among unlicensed buyers and sellers;
- We should not enact new laws on background checks until the federal government starts prosecuting violations of the current laws; and
- Universal background checks would harm gun dealers.
“In order to move the dial on preventing gun violence we need to help the American public move beyond misleading talking points and misunderstood statistics,” said Chelsea Parson, co-author of the report.
In all the heated rhetoric surrounding the debate this past year, much of the substance about the critical role background checks play in keeping guns out of dangerous hands has been lost.
The report also makes recommendations about how the nation can keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. The recommendations include:
- Prohibiting all dangerous people from owning guns;
- Imposing strong penalties for violating gun laws.
- Ensuring that all relevant records are submitted to NICS; and
- Requiring background checks for all gun sales.
Educators across the nation supported the push for background checks for gun purchases. In fact, the National Education Association, which represents close to 3 million teachers, education support professionals, and higher education faculty nationwide, strongly supported the effort to pass legislation requiring background checks as part of a larger gun violence prevention drive.
Around this time last year, the entire nation was mourning the 26 children and educators who lost their lives at the hands of a lone gunman, Adam Lanza, who walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary school and opened fire on those inside.
Family members of some of the victims have turned their grief into advocacy efforts designed to find answers as to why this tragedy happened while others have worked to get tougher gun safety measures passed. In regards to the latter, little has been done at the nation level, where members of Congress, fearful of the heads of the powerful gun lobby, failed to make any significant progress in passing new laws—even though national polls show the public wants lawmakers to pass tougher legislation curbing gun violence. However, earlier this month, Congress managed to pull off a minor victory—approving an extension of a 25-year-old gun safety law regarding plastic or undetectable firearms.
Meanwhile, former Congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly have announced that their political action committee will play an active role in both House and Senate races in 2014—in an effort to get more pro-gun safety candidates elected to office.
“It doesn’t have to be a sea change,” said Kelly, a retired astronaut to a national reporter. “We just have to start getting members of Congress to think about their next election differently and know that there is an organization that will support them if there’s a lot of money being spent against them on this issue.”
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