As the country finally began to reopen after months of being on lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, it was tragic to see a corresponding increase in mass shootings. As a result, we’ve seen a bipartisan discussion in Congress about expanding background checks. Given Democratic control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, we can expect some gun control legislation to pass. Therefore, it is up to Republicans on the Hill, like Senator Rob Portman, to fight to ensure that whatever the Senate votes on won’t take away people’s guns or increase the burden on legal gun owners.
As Americans we can all agree that watching innocent people get harmed because of gun violence is devastating. It is also true, especially for those who live in rural communities, that the need for personal gun ownership for protection is real. Additionally, the Second Amendment makes clear, and the Supreme Court has confirmed, the constitutional right to own a firearm.
So how can our elected officials help keep guns out of the hands of bad guys, while preserving our right to keep and bear arms?
One commonsense approach is to ensure that the gun laws that are already on the books are effective and are being enforced as originally intended.
For example, in 2013 there was a bipartisan amendment that would have ensured that, in addition to licensed dealers, it would require all those engaged in the commercial sales of firearms to conduct background checks. Most people probably think this is already the law of the land, but in fact this very subtle wording difference would actually ensure that thousands of more gun sales between complete strangers would be subject to background checks.
That’s because the current statute only requires checks on purchases from federally licensed gun dealers. This amendment would have expanded the checks to gun shows and Internet sales, but not for family members and friends giving or selling guns to each other.
Unfortunately, this amendment failed in the Senate, but Gallup conducted a poll right after the vote which found 65% of people supported its passage. This is likely because it is the type of compromise and common sense approach that many people, including gun owners, can get behind.
Since then, there has been no action to correct some obvious flaws in our gun laws. After every mass shooting, discussion regarding the need to close some of these loopholes increases for a time before dissipating as the 24 hour news cycle rolls on.
But now, Democrats have made it a priority to address gun violence in the United States, and with control of the Legislative and Executive Branches, we can anticipate they will take action.
As these Congressional conversations continue, I trust that Senator Portman will do the right thing and ensure whatever bill is passed does not infringe on our Second Amendment rights, but would still effectively close loopholes that currently make it easier for felons and those who, after due process, have lost their right to own a firearm to gain access to them. This commonsense approach is why universal background checks garner over 85% of the publics’ support.
This is a critically important, but understandably complicated issue, with people’s lives literally on the line. Not only those who are at risk of losing their lives due to senseless gun violence that could have been prevented, but also those who need to access firearms for personal protection. Congress must effectively balance these two priorities, or risk many more lives in the future.
Aaron Dauterman is a graduate of Ohio University where he studied Communications in Public Policy. He served as a Legislative Aide in the Ohio Senate and various other roles.