Chacos column: Guns — Freedom is never really free
Editor’s note: This is a bonus column from Andrea Chacos, who pens a monthly column for the Post Independent, in response to her Dec. 10 column regarding America’s gun culture, which generated a lot of feedback.
Gun talk is passionate, and I eagerly awaited responses for printing an opinion piece on the topic. I heard from some privately while others posted publicly; some stated views on parenting in an age of gun saturation while other responses proved irrational, no matter how many times I reread for clarity and understanding.
One thing became clear — gun advocates miss the larger message. The gun industry would have my fledgling support, and I imagine from thousands of other moms like me, by shoring up policies that have gaping holes, acknowledging inconsistencies between state laws and working together to get guns out of the wrong hands.
A Better Background Check
First, the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check) needs to be consistent and comprehensive. Federal law requires a national background check on all gun sales that go through a dealer holding a Federal Firearms License (FFL), like Cabela’s and Walmart. Since the system was launched in 1998, 1.5 million people have been denied, according to the FBI. This is a narrow net at best.
Going through a private gun seller is one way to avoid an FFL dealer and the required NICS. They occur all over the country through online auction sales, chat rooms, on social media sites, and at some gun shows. These individuals fall under private sale exemptions where background checks are not required. There are currently only 12 states, including Colorado, that require background checks for all point of sale purchases (whether it’s through a private sale or through a licensed dealer) at a gun show.
The gun show loophole refers to personal transactions that bypass a national background check. Gun advocates debate this term, sidelining the actual discussion. Every individual, on every type of sale, in every state in the country, without exception, should go through a national background check. Secondary market gun sales should require the purchaser to go through a NICS. No one should dispute tightening up current policies with gaping holes. Still, there’s plenty of pushback.
Next, the national background check should be more comprehensive. This should include mental-health and drug screenings, a mandatory waiting or “cooling off” period, valid identification with ways to verify authenticity, and dissolving the “default proceed” policy so there’s adequate time for the background check to be completed thoroughly.
Purchasing a gun should not be impulsive or simplified for the impatient customer. That would be like allowing eager teens to get their driver’s license without first going through a year of practice that includes applying for a permit, driving with a parent, taking costly classes, passing a written test, and then passing the driving portion. After that, if a teen has the means, they will be able to drive legally on the road; that is, if the driver can show proof of insurance, vehicle registration and a valid driver’s license.
Drive responsibly or get pulled over for driving with a cell phone, going too fast, going too slow, driving past curfew, driving without a seatbelt, forgetting to turn on the blinker, for swerving, for running a red light, or because it’s a random Friday night checkpoint. The driver will pay a penalty, and in some cases, have their license revoked.
If an individual is caught drinking and driving, their license can be taken away for years and will be a process to get back. These are comprehensive policies, and although not perfect, stringent driving laws pushed through by an angry public, not the auto industry, have reduced the dangerous, unintended consequences that millions of people with cars on the 21st century road have given us.
Disparate state laws allow some people with a history of assault, stalking, intimidation, violence or abuse to own a gun. Although it’s a federal crime for individuals prosecuted with a domestic violent misdemeanor from ever possessing a gun, individuals convicted of a violent misdemeanor, and how each state categorizes such, can still legally purchase a gun in half the states in our country.
The ability to carry a concealed weapon is another difference between states. Although safety classes and a criminal background check is most often required prior to the CCW permit, each state operates individually. One third of the states do not require a permit prior to carrying a concealed weapon. Carrying a gun, whether you believe it to be your inalienable right or not, should not be inconsistent.
If we want to stop gun-related crimes, there is no one silver bullet; no one measure toward success. Our responsibility is to change the currency for the price we’re willing to pay for our guns. The right to own a gun is simply an American privilege we choose to tolerate in today’s society, and it comes with great responsibility. Use it.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
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