When President Obama gives his State of the Union Address tonight, gun control is expected to be a major talking point, including the push for universal background checks (UBCs).
To really emphasize its desire to usher in gun control reform, the White House has invited as many as 30 victims of gun-related violence to proverbially ‘share the stage’ with the President, POLITICO reported.
These guests include high-profile gun control proponents like Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, as well as individuals tied to the mass shootings at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Newtown and Aurora.
Additionally, Michelle Obama will appear with the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old who was fatally wounded on the streets of Chicago in January, shortly after participating in the President’s second inaugural parade.
“These people by their presence will send a message more powerful than any words from me or my colleagues,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told POLITICO.
“I think that picture will be worth a thousand words,” he continued. “And when the President looks to the gallery, sees the faces and voices of victims it will powerfully reinforce his message that we need to do something about gun violence.”
As Guns.com has previously discussed, in the debate over gun control UBCs are the lowest hanging fruit. They appear to be popular both politically – several GOP lawmakers including 2012 vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan have voiced support for them – and amongst the public, polls consistently show widespread support for UBCs.
Consequently, one can expect the President to spend a fair amount of time pitching UBCs to the country. Given this fact, perhaps it’s time to review the arguments for and against.
In a recent op-ed in USA Today, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre iterated the NRA’s arguments against UBCs.
“Criminals won’t participate in a “universal” system. They’ll always steal or get their guns, and everything else they want, on the black market. Reasonable people know that criminals will never be part of the ‘universe,’” wrote LaPierre.
With respect to the mentally ill and those suffering from other ailments LaPierre said that due to privacy concerns its unreasonable to assume “the federal government will require medical professionals to add records of their patients to a massive federal database.”
As a result of these inherent gaps within the background check system, LaPierre contended that UBCs would negatively impact the law-abiding.
“The only ‘universe’ will be law-abiding, sane, decent, non-threatening Americans who have already participated in the check system for two decades now. It will be the names of good people — and only their names — that will go into a database, subjected to potential federal registration and abuse of privacy.”
On the other side of the issue, the editors at USA Today argued that while UBCs aren’t a “panacea” for gun-related violence, they are a reasonable solution that can have an impact.
The editors then list this point-by-point critique of the NRA’s logic and reasoning.
• Criminals will never submit to background checks. By this logic, of course, there’d be no point in passing any law that criminals would break. Why, for instance, have speed limits if speeders just ignore them?
• The new system would unfairly burden a father who wanted to leave a gun to his son, or a son who wanted to give a gun to his mother for self protection. Simply untrue. The White House proposal would provide for “common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes.”
• Universal checks would create an unworkable federal bureaucracy. Even gun-rights advocates concede that the instant background check system works quickly and well. Buyers at gun stores can fill out the required form online on a store computer. So why not figure out an easy, cheap and secure way to let private sellers and buyers do the same thing on home computers or tablets?
• Law-abiding people don’t want every gun sale “under the thumb” of the federal government. Actually, a CBS/New York Times poll this year showed that 92 percent of people favor universal background checks, including 85 percent of people in a household that includes an NRA member. Considering how hard it is to get Americans to agree on anything, these are remarkable numbers.
So, who makes the better argument? Well, it ultimately depends on what the final UBCs bill looks like. Right now, both sides are arguing over an idea and not an explicated policy. Until the bill is penned, we won’t really know the extent to which it will affect law-abiding gun owners.