The Allen Massacre Underlines the False Promise of ‘Universal Background Checks’

“Yet the perpetrator, who was killed by a police officer at the scene, had been licensed as an armed security guard, which means he passed a background check and was legally allowed to own firearms.
In that respect, the killer was typical of people who commit crimes like this. That is the main reason why expanded background checks cannot reasonably be expected to have much of an impact on mass shootings, contrary to the impression left by politicians who reflexively recommend that solution.

Federal law disqualifies broad categories of Americans from owning firearms, including people who have been convicted of felonies or subjected to court-ordered psychiatric treatment. Background checks are required for all gun sales by federally licensed dealers, and some states extend that requirement to transfers by private sellers.

As several news outlets noted after the Allen attack, Texas is not one of those states. But that detail does not seem relevant in this case: Although the killer bought some guns from private sellers, CNN reported, the rifle he used in the attack was “purchased legally,” meaning he was not a “prohibited person” under federal law.”

America isn’t protecting its kids and teens from gun violence

“In 2020, gun violence surpassed traffic accidents, cancer, suffocation, and poisoning as the leading cause of death among children and teens. That makes the US exceptional: In no other wealthy or similarly sized country is gun violence one of the top four causes of death among children and teens, let alone the leading one, according to a 2022 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That analysis also showed that the US accounts for 97 percent of all child and teen firearm deaths among its peer countries.
Most of those US deaths are caused by assault, with 3.6 children and teens per 100,000 dying on that account in 2020. By comparison, 1.7 and 0.3 per 100,000 children and teens died from firearm suicide and unintentional or undetermined firearm-related causes, respectively.

Children and teens in the US also experience ongoing secondary effects from gun violence, even if they are not injured in a shooting. Researchers at Penn Medicine found in a 2021 study of more than 2,600 shootings that there was a significant spike in emergency department visits for mental health issues among children after neighborhood shootings, with the most acute effects observed among children living closest to the site of the shooting and those who have witnessed multiple shootings.”

Tennessee just strengthened background checks for guns. They’re still weak.

“The executive order represents incremental progress in a state with some of the laxest gun laws in the country, and comes just as two lawmakers previously expelled from the state legislature for participating in a gun control protest return to their posts.
It requires that new criminal history information and court mental health information be reported within 72 hours for purposes of including it in the state’s background check system. It also directs the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to evaluate how its background check system can be improved.

But it still leaves gaping holes in a background check system. It also wouldn’t have stopped the Nashville shooter, who bought their guns legally from five different local gun stores and had no history of contact with law enforcement or commitment to an institution that would have been flagged on a background check.

The governor has separately called for the state legislature to pass a red flag law, also known as an extreme risk protection law, under which individuals believed to pose a danger to themselves or others can be barred from possessing firearms. But it’s not clear that there is the political will to do so among Republicans in the state, who have in recent years removed permit requirements to carry a handgun in public and pushed legislation that would loosen restrictions on carrying guns on school campuses.”

“The new executive order doesn’t fill a major gap in Tennessee’s background check system: Current law doesn’t require background checks for private gun sales, ones where there isn’t a licensed dealer involved. Those sales can occur at gun shows or online marketplaces such as Armslist. According to an Everytown analysis of 2018 gun ads on Armslist, one in eight prospective buyers in Tennessee wouldn’t have passed a background check.

Currently, 14 states require universal background checks on all gun sales, including those that occur online.”

Biden bypasses Congress as he tries to tamp down gun violence

“The executive action directs Attorney General Merrick Garland to address a background check loophole by clarifying the definition of “engaged in the business” of selling firearms. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed last summer updated federal law, requiring anyone who sells guns for profit to be licensed and conduct background checks on buyers. By clarifying who qualifies as a gun dealer, the federal law will require a greater number of sellers to conduct background checks on prospective buyers.
Biden’s latest gun policy rollout, which he announced at the Boys & Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley, comes amid a deadly year. Almost four months into 2023, there have been 109 mass shootings in which four or more people were injured or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive. As the violence continues even after the passage of the first gun legislation in 30 years, major gun safety groups have pleaded with Biden to act alone as Congress appears unlikely to reach further compromise on the issue.”

“The executive order also directed members of Biden’s Cabinet to focus on raising public awareness of red flag laws and safe storage of guns and to address the loss and theft of firearms, the official said. The president also took additional steps aimed at holding gun manufacturers accountable, including by encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to analyze and report how gun manufacturers market firearms to minors.”

Why Most Gun Laws Aren’t Backed Up By Evidence

“The Dickey Amendment, first attached to the 1996 omnibus spending bill, for example, famously prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding gun violence studies for decades. A new interpretation of that amendment in 2018 changed that, but Dickey wasn’t the only thing making it hard to study gun violence.
Instead, the researchers told me, the biggest impediment to demonstrating whether gun control policies work is the way politicians have intentionally blocked access to the data that would be necessary to do that research.”