Senate Fails American People, Sinks Background Checks


The White House

Courtesy of Peter Souza/Wikimedia Former Rep. Gabrielle Gifford continues to be a strong proponent of gun control following her attempted assassination.



Courtesy of Peter Souza/Wikimedia Former Rep. Gabrielle Gifford continues to be a strong proponent of gun control following her attempted assassination.
Courtesy of Peter Souza/Wikimedia Former Rep. Gabrielle Gifford continues to be a strong proponent of gun control following her attempted assassination.

The gun control debate continues to make waves in Washington D.C. and in the media as measures to extend background checks stalled in Congress.

While gun violence in America remains at a higher rate than in any other country, millions of Americans are looking to government leaders to extend measures to prevent more atrocities. Meanwhile, pro-gun groups stand with money to spend and rights to defend, leading to a messy, ugly divide in the current political landscape.

This past week, the Senate voted against a number of bills which would enact further restrictions on purchasing guns in America. The measure that would assure background checks on gun purchases and eradicate “gun-show loopholes,” came up with just 45 of the 60 required votes to pass in the Senate.

The gun-show loophole extends to online exchanges and classified advertisements, which is how 40 percent of all guns are purchased in the United States. The event struck as a victory for those looking to protect every aspect of their right to bear arms, while President Obama called the failure “a shame.”

According to current federal law, background checks are necessary in transactions completed by licensed dealers. The issue is that these particular “gun-show” transactions are not conducted by licensed dealers. According to federal law, a dealer is one who devotes “time, attention and labor to dealing firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit.” Individuals who sell guns from their private collections through online services and at gun show are thus excluded. If the Senate passed the bill, criminals would be legally barred from purchasing guns through either of these methods.

In a recently featured article, The New York Times reported on the easiness by which one can purchase a gun on what they call the “land of a few rules,” or the Internet. When using websites such as and other smaller services, for example, sellers post ads for guns they are willing to sell and wait for buyers. Often time buyers fail to supply background information and government forms, and federal clearance is skipped so the process is waived; as a ressult a buyer’s criminal history remains unknown. The New York Times made a point to track down as many potential buyers as possible by way of posted cell phone numbers. They were led to a handful of buyers who possessed a plethora of previous charges.

One of the buyers reached was contacted through numerous posts offering $200 in cash for a handgun. He had previously been convicted of burglary, motor vehicle theft and domestic violence. Each of these charges legally bans a person from possessing guns, yet the loophole in the system allows these kinds of people to gain access to guns.

Following the news of the bill’s failure to pass, President Obama spoke at a press conference with the families of victims of the Newtown shooting.

“Sooner or later, we are going to get this right,” he added. “The memories of these children [of Sandy Hook Elementary School] deserve it, and so do the American people.”

Following the voting, it becomes difficult to blame any single figure that has played a role in the furthering of the debate of gun control. This includes advocates of gun control, a frustrated president and nearly every Democrat in Washingtont who stand against the immense National Rifle Association (NRA) and almost every Republican in Congress. Both sides continue to weigh on the conscience of the Senate, with advocates of gun control having everything to gain.

On Wednesday, the NRA’s president, Wayne LaPierre, urged members to blitz their Senators with phone calls, letters and emails. The NRA spent an additional $500,000 on Wednesday in an effort to denounce Obama’s “gun ban.”

It also led senators to tell complete lies about the proposed bill. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), for instance, told voters it would lead to a tax increase. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) insisted the measure would require background checks to be place on office bulletin boards in the workplace. Others accused the measure of instilling a national registry system. None of these measures, however, were ever even suggested in any legislation.

While the American people remain in favor of enacting measures that extend background checks, pro-gun organizations such as the NRA continue to conjure misguided and misinformed rhetoric and might have influenced legislative decisions by using money and lobbying. According to a Luntz poll, 85 percent of gun owners who are not members of the NRA support mandatory background checks on all purchasers at gun shows and through online services.

Just as important, 69 percent of gun owners who are members of the NRA support the same background checks. This represents members speaking individually, not on behalf of the organization.

While we have the highest civilian gun ownership of any country, most Americans do not own guns (75 percent of gun owners own at least two).

Also, according to a survey conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center, gun ownership has decreased in the past few decades. In 1973, guns were in about every other household in the country. Now, it is 1 in every 3.

About 1 in every 5 American citizens owns a gun, down from 1 in every 3 just 30 years ago. Even with declining ownership rates, America maintains a murder rate 3 to 5 times higher than any other country. In the latest AP survey, 86 percent of those questioned supported extending the background checks to gun shows and to online purchases.

“The American people are trying to figure out,” President. Obama said. “How can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen?”

Well, President Obama: It takes a flaw in the democratic system, a misuse of elected power and a disconnect between consensus and rhetoric.

While advocates of gun control have made their pitch and garnered incredible widespread support, the dilemma lies in the politics, in the lobbying and in the amounts of money being spent. As Gabrielle Giffords put it, the elected representatives blatantly “ignored the will of the American people.”

Senators may have defended their choices to vote against measures with their logic and their conscience. The American people, however, remain with unanswered questions and unsatisfied demands — the antithesis of democracy.

Joseph Vitale is a political science and English major from Staten Island, N.Y.