Archived Story

Editorial: The loophole on private gun sales should be closed

Published 9:30am Friday, June 28, 2013

Gun control is one of those issues that people debate passionately but in actuality not much changes. No matter the vitriol over the issue through the decades and even with laws that have come and gone, lawful people still can purchase most kinds of guns legally without a national registry and not much discouraging red tape.

That’s why there must be room in the law books for one minor change: background checks for person-to-person sales.

It’s called the gun show loophole but private sales loophole might be a better term. There is a background check for getting a purchase permit and one for buying from a dealer. With all the modern technology available, it only makes sense to prevent guns from falling into the hands of convicts, the court-ordered mentally ill and people prohibited by law from owning guns.

A six-part series the Albert Lea Tribune completed today on guns showed the Freeborn County sheriff, the Albert Lea police chief and many elected leaders favor closing this loophole. Even a local gun store owner favors closing it if it could be done without discouraging complications. Polls say 80 to 90 percent of Americans favor closing this loophole.

The sellers need not have full access to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, but there ought to be a way to get a simple yes or no answer on whether a buyer is eligible to purchase a gun.

It clearly would reduce firearms from getting into the wrong hands. Responsible gun owners should favor that.

Congress, the state Legislature or both can accomplish this if our elected leaders are willing to lead. Let’s get the loophole closed in the coming year.


A few other points:

• Guns are too embedded in the American culture to attempt to ban them outright. We are a liberated people that settled frontiers, where handling guns was part of everyday living. And that tradition of hunting with guns and collecting them continues to this day. Safe handling of firearms is encouraged and enjoyed. There is no harm in that.

• Politicians like to trot out the issue of gun control during campaigns to attract the one-issue voters from both sides. Frankly, it is wise to cast votes on issues that gain traction and see changes, such as taxes, roads, education, energy policies and social services. That said, it’s good to see how candidates stand on guns, but one issue ought not decide a person’s ballot choices.

• Blaming the media for gun violence is a form of ignoring the true underlying problems, such as bullying, failing to love children or mental health. When a teenage boy fires a gun in school, it’s not video games desensitizing him to violence. That’s like blaming rock ’n’ roll for society’s woes. It’s irrational. We need to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We all have to look out for our children. We all have the blood on our hands.

• Mental health continues to be ignored in this country. It’s surprisingly difficult to get people in the mental health field to speak about the problem publicly. Politicians pay lip service to the matter, but they don’t budget additional public funds to match their words. America will continue to see mass shootings unless our leaders do more to address this problem.

• Congress needs to repeal the ban on research of gun violence. It is shocking and saddening how the federal government could kowtow so deeply to the National Rifle Association over simply compiling credible facts and figures. Americans need to know observable patterns in gun violence for the public good. The last thing the gun industry wants or needs is more gun violence, which each time is a public relations nightmare. One would think research and data would benefit the industry. A vibrant democracy doesn’t stifle debate by hiding the facts. A vibrant democracy embraces knowledge, even if it isn’t pleasant.