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Gun control: Another look

It’s an old argument — one that is deeply divided down party lines: gun control. Should there be stricter regulations when  it comes to purchasing a gun? And, if so, what should those regulations entail? Rarely have the two sides come together in consensus when debating this issue.

And that continues to be the case today, though there is new reason to hope for some form of compromise. That’s because the House of Representatives has passed two pieces of legislation to strengthen federal gun control laws. The first, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, broadened federal background checks for those wishing to buy a gun. Known as the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, it passed in the House mainly along party lines, 240 to 190. The second, known as the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, designed to close what is called the “Charleston Loophole,” passed Thursday, Feb. 28, with a vote of 228 to 198 — again along party lines.

Both pieces of legislation would help with strengthening this country’s gun control. One lengthens the time federal authorities have to conduct a background check before a gun can be purchased. Currently, the purchase can go through automatically if the background check isn’t finalized in three business days. It also requires background checks be conducted on all gun sales, whether private, online or at gun shows. There are exceptions under the proposal. At this time, only licensed gun dealers must do background checks for potential customers.

The other proposed law wants to increase the available time to conduct background checks from three days to 10. In instances like the 2015 Charleston, S.C., shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church that killed nine people, such a background check would have revealed that the accused shooter had a previous drug arrest. Such information would have barred him from buying a gun — but because the check didn’t come up with that vital information, it didn’t.

Clearly, having stricter gun control laws could save lives. We know that. The fact that Republicans are sticking to their argument that more regulations would negatively impact gun owners is troubling. Yes, lawful gun owners have rights — rights that need to be protected by law. But extending the time alloted for background checks shouldn’t make a difference if one is making a gun purchase legally.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is lobbying hard against these two pieces of legislation. And chances are that they won’t make much progress once they head to the Senate floor. If, by some miracle, they do, President Trump has said he’d use his veto powers to block passage of the laws.

We know this is a really heated debate, one with gun owners and gun control advocates deeply entrenched in the belief they are in the right. But it’s not that simple. The best we can hope for, therefore, is for our common sense to rule our decision making. Let’s not bar the sale of guns to those who rightfully deserve to buy them. Legal gun sales — and the Second Amendment -— must remain protected. But those purchasing guns should have the patience, and the wherewithal, to wait another week to get their guns in hand. And, if buying a gun with nothing but the best intentions, those making the purchase should not protest facing a background check where previously there was none.

The legislation doesn’t seem to be unreasonable. We’d love to see a compromise between Democrats and Republicans on this issue, because living in a country with weak gun control laws could prove fatal.